Analgesia for early-life pain prevents deficits in adult anxiety and stress in rats

Nicole C. Victoria, Mary C. Karom, Anne Z. Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Previous studies in rats have established that inflammatory pain experienced on the day of birth (P0) decreases sensitivity to acute noxious, anxiety- and stress-provoking stimuli. However, to date, the impact of early-life pain on adult responses to chronic stress is not known. Further, the ability of morphine, administered at the time of injury, to mitigate changes in adult behavioral and hormonal responses to acute or chronic stressors has not been examined. P0 male and female Sprague-Dawley rat pups were given an intraplantar injection of 1% carrageenan or handled in an identical manner in the presence or absence of morphine. As adults, rats that experienced early-life pain displayed decreased sensitivity to acute stressors, as indicated by increased time in the inner area of the Open Field, and increased latency to immobility and decreased time immobile in the Forced Swim Test (FST). An accelerated return of corticosterone to baseline was also observed. Morphine administration at the time of injury completely reversed this 'hyporesponsive' phenotype. By contrast, following 7 days of chronic variable stress, injured animals displayed a 'hyperresponsive' phenotype in that they initiated immobility and spent significantly more time immobile in the FST than controls. Responses to chronic stress were also rescued in animals that received morphine at the time of injury. These data suggest that analgesia for early-life pain prevents adult hyposensitivity to acute anxiety- and stress-provoking stimuli and increased vulnerability to chronic stress, and have important clinical implications for the management of pain in infants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalDevelopmental Neuroscience
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 24 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 S. Karger AG, Basel.


  • Corticosterone
  • Forced Swim Test
  • Long-term consequences
  • Morphine
  • Open Field
  • Preterm infants


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