Independent effects of early-life experience and trait aggression on cardiovascular function

Academic Article


  • Early-life experience (ELE) can significantly affect life-long health and disease, including cardiovascular function. Specific dimensions of emotionality also modify risk of disease, and aggressive traits along with social inhibition have been established as independent vulnerability factors for the progression of cardiovascular disease. Yet, the biological mechanisms mediating these associations remain poorly understood. The present study utilized the inherently stress-susceptible and socially inhibited Wistar-Kyoto rats to determine the potential influences of ELE and trait aggression (TA) on cardiovascular parameters throughout the lifespan. Pups were exposed to maternal separation (MS), consisting of daily 3-h separations of the entire litter from postnatal day (P)1 to P14. The rats were weaned at P21, and as adults were instrumented for chronic radiotelemetry recordings of blood pressure and heart rate (HR). Adult aggressive behavior was assessed using the resident-intruder test, which demonstrated that TA was independent of MS exposure. MS-exposed animals (irrespective of TA) had significantly lower resting HR accompanied by increases in HR variability. No effects of MS on resting blood pressure were detected. In contrast, TA correlated with increased resting mean, systolic, and diastolic arterial pressures but had no effect on HR. TA rats (relative to nonaggressive animals) also manifested increased wall-to-lumen ratio in the thoracic aorta, increased sensitivity to phenylephrine- induced vascular contractility, and increased norepinephrine content in the heart. Together these data suggest that ELE and TA are independent factors that impact baseline cardiovascular function.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Rana S; Pugh PC; Katz E; Stringfellow SA; Lin CP; Wyss JM; Stauss HM; White CR; Clinton SM; Kerman IA
  • Start Page

  • R272
  • End Page

  • R286
  • Volume

  • 311
  • Issue

  • 2