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Early Stress in Rats Bites Memory Later On: Inadequate care to young animals delivers delayed hit to the brain

The stress of experiencing inadequate childhood care rebounds with a brain-altering, memory-sapping vengeance in middle age, at least in laboratory rats, a new study indicates.

Neuroscientist Tallie Z. Baram of the University of California, Irvine and her colleagues have obtained the first evidence that young animals exposed to such stress later in life suffer memory declines accompanied by disrupted cell communication in the hippocampus, a brain region critical for learning and memory.

Although no nonhuman animal provides an exact behavioral model of child abuse (SN: 7/2/05, p. 5: Mother Knows Worst: Abusive parenting spans generations in monkeys), the findings raise the possibility that the emotional toll of child abuse and neglect accelerates memory loss in adults, the researchers report in the Oct. 12 Journal of Neuroscience.

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