Sex differences in the effect of maternal immune activation on cognitive and psychosis-like behaviour in Long Evans rats Academic Article uri icon


  • Maternal immune activation during pregnancy is associated with increased risk of development of schizophrenia in later life. There are sex differences in schizophrenia, particularly in terms of age of onset, course of illness and severity of symptoms. However, there is limited and inconsistent literature on sex differences in the effects of maternal immune activation on behaviour with relevance to schizophrenia. The aim of this study was therefore to investigate sex differences in the effects of maternal immune activation by treating Long Evans rats with poly(I:C) on gestational day 15. We compared adult male and female offspring on spatial working memory in the touchscreen trial-unique nonmatching-to-location task, pairwise discrimination and reversal learning, as well as on prepulse inhibition and psychotropic drug-induced locomotor hyperactivity. Male, but not female poly(I:C) offspring displayed a deficit in spatial working memory, particularly at the longer delay. Neither pairwise discrimination nor reversal learning showed an effect of poly(I:C), but female controls outperformed male controls in the reversal learning task. Significant reduction of prepulse inhibition and enhancement of acute methamphetamine-induced locomotor hyperactivity was found similarly in male and female poly(I:C) offspring. These results show that maternal immune activation induces a range of behavioural effects in the offspring, with sex specificity in the effects of maternal immune activation on some aspects of cognition, but not psychosis-like behaviour.

publication date

  • 2020