Neonatal colon irritation (CI; pain or inflammation) given for 2 weeks prior to postnatal day 22 (PND22), causes long-lasting functional disorders in rats that can be seen 6 months after the initial insult. This study looked at the effect of varying the frequency and duration of neonatal CI on the rate of growth, digestive outcomes, exploratory activity, and colon and skin sensitivity in adult rats.
Male Sprague-Dawley rats were given CI using repeated colorectal distension (CRD) at different time intervals and for varying durations starting at PND 8, 10 or 14. Control rats were handled by the investigator without any intracolonic insertion. Further experiments were done on adult rats. Digestive outcomes (food and water consumption, fecal and urinary outputs) were measured using metabolic cages. Exploratory behavior was measured using digital video tracking in an open field. Cutaneous sensitivity was assessed by measuring the responses to mechanical and heat stimuli applied to the shaved abdomen or hind paws. Visceral sensitivity was measured by recording electromyographic responses, under light isoflurane anesthesia, from the external oblique muscles in response to CRD.
No significant weight differences were observed between CI and control rats. Exploratory behavior was reduced in rats with neonatal CI compared to control. Digestive outputs and somatic and visceral sensitivity changed between different treatment groups with earlier and more frequent insults yielding a higher deviation from normal.
The diversity of behavioral and digestive symptoms in these rats parallels the diversity of symptoms in patients with functional gastrointestinal disorders and is consistent with global plastic changes affecting more than one system in the organism.