Project 7

Effects of early-life experiences on micro-circuitry in forebrain areas involved in stress regulation

ESR 7: Evgenii Liubishkin 

Supervisors: Mark Cunningham and Tom Smulders

Location: Trinity College Dubin 

Project Description: Early life experience can have profound effects on how the brain works later in life. In addition to direct effects on the regulation of stress hormones, we have recently found that different early life experiences in rodents (e.g. being cross-fostered or being reared by one’s own mother) changes the micro circuitry in the brain that generates electrical rhythms in the brain.  We have recently also described the generation of these rhythms in the chicken hippocampus. In this project, we will further compare the micro circuits involved in this generation between birds and mammals and investigate whether the sensitivity of micro-circuits to early-life experiences apply to birds as well. Precocial birds, like chickens, are very independent from the moment of hatching. Nevertheless, they imprint to a mother hen, and rely on her for protection and guidance for foraging. In commercial conditions, however, no mother hen (or other imprinting stimulus) is available to the newly-hatched chicks. We will compare the micro-circuitry in the hippocampus and amygdala of adolescent chickens incubated and hatched with a hen mother to those that were reared under different commercial conditions: incubated in the dark or with a light-dark cycle, and hatched in the dark or with a natural light cycle. This work will involve recording field potentials from brain slices that are kept alive in vitro for a day and that are induced to generate different electrical rhythms. Further electrophysiological and neuroanatomical investigations may also be carried out on the same tissues.