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Maturation of the CNS in neonatal animals is dependent upon both sensory input and the constant availability of metabolic fuel. Previous reports indicate that the preferred metabolic substrate for the developing rat brain is lactate. In this study, we used the neonatal Sprague-Dawley rat to investigate a possible interactive role between touch and the regulation of serum lactate. Two hundred and fifty rats (postnatal d 0-7) were exposed to a standard tactile stimulation (TS) regimen to mimic nonspecific maternal stimulation. This regimen consisted of stroking the dorsum with a soft camel hair brush for 30 s every minute for 10 min. Serum lactate and glucose levels were measured after TS. In newborn (d 0) rats, lactate levels were increased by 207% in stroked pups versus controls. This elevation of serum lactate persisted for 30 min after cessation of TS. On d 7, TS increased lactate only 11%. Glucose levels were unaffected at all ages. In neonatal pups, pretreatment with pentobarbital blocked the effect of TS, whereas epidermal growth factor evoked a synergistic response. Capsaicin pretreatment had no effect. Mixed arteriovenous blood gases revealed a mild increase in pH and a decrease in Pco2 after TS. We conclude that TS in newborn rats is a regulator of circulating lactate. This response is maximal in the immediate postnatal period and wanes over the 1st wk of life. We speculate that the transduction of sensory signals by the skin is a mechanism regulating the availability of cerebral energy substrates in the newborn mammal.

(C) International Pediatrics Research Foundation, Inc. 1997. All Rights Reserved.