Adolescent stress during, but not after, pubertal onset impairs indices of prepulse inhibition in adult rats

Carly M. Drzewiecki, Jari Willing, Laura R. Cortes, Janice M. Juraska

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Exposure to stress during adolescence is a risk factor for developing several psychiatric disorders, many of which involve prefrontal cortex (PFC) dysfunction. The human PFC and analogous rodent medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) continue to mature functionally and anatomically during adolescence, and some of these maturational events coincide with pubertal onset. As developing brain regions are more susceptible to the negative effects of stress, this may make puberty especially vulnerable. To test this, we exposed male and female rats to isolation and restraint stress during the onset of puberty or during the post-pubertal period of adolescence. In young adulthood, both stressed groups and an unstressed control group underwent testing on a battery of tasks to assess emotional and cognitive behaviors, and the volume of the mPFC was quantified postmortem. Factor analysis revealed only subjects stressed peri-pubertally showed a long-term deficiency compared to controls in prepulse inhibition. Additionally, both sexes showed volumetric mPFC decreases following adolescent stress, and these losses were most pronounced in females. Our findings suggest that pubertal onset may be a vulnerable window wherein adolescents are most susceptible to the negative consequences of stress exposure. Furthermore, it highlights the importance of accounting for pubertal status when studying adolescents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)837-850
Number of pages14
JournalDevelopmental psychobiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • cognition
  • elevated plus maze
  • estrogen
  • forced swim
  • object recognition
  • prefrontal cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Developmental Biology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Adolescent stress during, but not after, pubertal onset impairs indices of prepulse inhibition in adult rats'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this