Publications by authors named "Mallory S Vollbrecht"

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Engrailed 2 deficiency and chronic stress alter avoidance and motivation behaviors.

Behav Brain Res 2021 Sep 13;413:113466. Epub 2021 Jul 13.

Behavioral and Systems Neuroscience Area, Department of Psychology, Rutgers University-New Brunswick, Piscataway, NJ, 08854, USA. Electronic address:

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a pervasive neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impairments in social interaction, cognition, and communication, as well as the presence of repetitive or stereotyped behaviors and interests. ASD is most often studied as a neurodevelopmental disease, but it is a lifelong disorder. Adults with ASD experience more stressful life events and greater perceived stress, and frequently have comorbid mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. It remains unclear whether adult exposure to chronic stress can exacerbate the behavioral and neurodevelopmental phenotypes associated with ASD. To address this issue, we first investigated whether adult male and female Engrailed-2 deficient (En2-KO, En2-/-) mice, which display behavioral disturbances in avoidance tasks and dysregulated monoaminergic neurotransmitter levels, also display impairments in instrumental behaviors associated with motivation, such as the progressive ratio task. We then exposed adult En2-KO mice to chronic environmental stress (CSDS, chronic social defeat stress), to determine if stress exacerbated the behavioral and neuroanatomical effects of En2 deletion. En2-/- mice showed impaired instrumental acquisition and significantly lower breakpoints in a progressive ratio test, demonstrating En2 deficiency decreases motivation to exert effort for reward. Furthermore, adult CSDS exposure increased avoidance behaviors in En2-KO mice. Interestingly, adult CSDS exposure also exacerbated the deleterious effects of En2 deficiency on forebrain-projecting monoaminergic fibers. Our findings thus suggest that adult exposure to stress may exacerbate behavioral and neuroanatomical phenotypes associated with developmental effects of genetic En2 deficiency.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbr.2021.113466DOI Listing
September 2021
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