In the mammalian brain, adult hippocampal neurogenesis (AHN) is suppressed by chronic stress, primarily at the ventral pole of the hippocampus. Based upon anatomy, we hypothesise that the caudal pole of the avian Hippocampal Formation (HF) presents a homologous subregion. We thus investigated whether AHN is preferentially suppressed in the caudal chicken HF by unpredictable chronic mild stress (UCMS). Adult hens were kept in control conditions or exposed to UCMS for 8 weeks. Hens experiencing UCMS had significantly fewer doublecortin-positive multipolar neurons (p < 0.001) and beaded axons (p = 0.021) at the caudal pole of the HF than controls. UCMS birds also had smaller spleens and lower baseline plasma corticosterone levels compared to controls. There were no differences in AHN at the rostral pole, nor were there differences in expression of genetic mediators of the HPA stress response in the pituitary or adrenal glands. Duration of tonic immobility and heterophil/lymphocyte (H/L) ratios were also not responsive to our UCMS treatment. These results support the hypothesised homology of the caudal pole of the avian HF to the ventral pole of the rodent hippocampus. Furthermore, quantifying neurogenesis in the caudal HF post-mortem may provide an objective, integrative measure of welfare in poultry, which may be more sensitive than current welfare measures.
- Agriculture, Horticulture And Engineering Sciences, Monogastric Science Research - Senior Behaviour and Welfare Scientist/Poultry Site Manager
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