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Horm Behav. 2007 May;51(5):655-64. Epub 2007 Mar 27.

Individual differences in novelty-seeking and emotional reactivity correlate with variation in maternal behavior.

Author information

  • 1Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience Institute, University of Michigan, 205 Zina Pitcher Place, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-0720, USA. clintons@umich.edu

Abstract

Numerous studies have demonstrated that Sprague-Dawley rats exhibit a wide range of locomotor reactivity when placed in a novel environment. High Responder (HR) rats show exaggerated locomotor response to novelty, enhanced neuroendocrine stress reactivity, decreased anxiety-like behavior, and propensity to self-administer psychostimulants, compared to the less active Low Responder (LR) animals. Few studies have explored the early environmental factors which may underlie the HR-LR differences in emotional reactivity. Considering the enormous impact of maternal care on rodent neurodevelopment, we sought to examine maternal behavior in HR-LR dams to determine whether they exhibit differences which could contribute to their offspring's differential temperaments. Females, like males, can be classified as HR versus LR, showing marked differences in novelty-induced locomotor activity and anxiety-like behavior. HR-LR mothers behaved differently with their pups during the first two postpartum weeks. LR dams spent greater time licking and nursing their pups compared to HR dams, with the most prominent differences occurring during the second postpartum week. By contrast, when non-lactating HR-LR females were presented with orphaned pups, the pattern of maternal response was reversed. HR females were more responsive and showed greater maternal care of the novel pups compared to LR females, which were probably inhibited due to fear of the unfamiliar pups. This underscores the critical interplay between the female's emotional phenotype, her hormonal status and her familiarity with the pup as key factors in determining maternal behavior. Future work should explore neural and hormonal mechanisms which drive these HR-LR differences in maternal behavior and their impact on the development of the offspring.

PMID:
17462647
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC1945104
Free PMC Article
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