Preclinical studies have established that neonatal exposure to contemporary sedative/hypnotic drugs causes neurotoxicity in the developing rodent and primate brains. Our group recently reported that novel neuroactive steroid (3β,5β,17β)-3-hydroxyandrostane-17-carbonitrile (3β-OH) induced effective hypnosis in both neonatal and adult rodents but did not cause significant neurotoxicity in vulnerable brain regions such as subiculum, an output region of hippocampal formation particularly sensitive to commonly used sedatives/hypnotics. Despite significant emphasis on patho-morphological changes, little is known about long-term effects on subicular neurophysiology after neonatal exposure to neuroactive steroids. Hence, we explored the lasting effects of neonatal exposure to 3β-OH on sleep macrostructure as well as subicular neuronal oscillations in vivo and synaptic plasticity ex vivo in adolescent rats. At postnatal day 7, we exposed rat pups to either 10 mg/kg of 3β-OH over a period of 12 h or to volume-matched cyclodextrin vehicle. At weaning age, a cohort of rats was implanted with a cortical electroencephalogram (EEG) and subicular depth electrodes. At postnatal day 30–33, we performed in vivo assessment of sleep macrostructure (divided into wake, non-rapid eye movement, and rapid eye movement sleep) and power spectra in cortex and subiculum. In a second cohort of 3β-OH exposed animals, we conducted ex vivo studies of long-term potentiation (LTP) in adolescent rats. Overall, we found that neonatal exposure to 3β-OH decreased subicular delta and sigma oscillations during non-rapid eye movement sleep without altering sleep macrostructure. Furthermore, we observed no significant changes in subicular synaptic plasticity. Interestingly, our previous study found that neonatal exposure to ketamine increased subicular gamma oscillations during non-rapid eye movement sleep and profoundly suppressed subicular LTP in adolescent rats. Together these results suggest that exposure to different sedative/hypnotic agents during a critical period of brain development may induce distinct functional changes in subiculum circuitry that may persist into adolescent age.
- brain development
- long-term potentiation