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Front Neuroendocrinol. 2009 Jan;30(1):46-64. doi: 10.1016/j.yfrne.2008.10.002. Epub 2008 Nov 5.

Medial preoptic area interactions with dopamine neural systems in the control of the onset and maintenance of maternal behavior in rats.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Boston College, McGuinn Hall, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467, USA.


The medial preoptic area (MPOA) and dopamine (DA) neural systems interact to regulate maternal behavior in rats. Two DA systems are involved: the mesolimbic DA system and the incerto-hypothalamic DA system. The hormonally primed MPOA regulates the appetitive aspects of maternal behavior by activating mesolimbic DA input to the shell region of the nucleus accumbens (NAs). DA action on MPOA via the incerto-hypothalamic system may interact with steroid and peptide hormone effects so that MPOA output to the mesolimbic DA system is facilitated. Neural oxytocin facilitates the onset of maternal behavior by actions at critical nodes in this circuitry. DA-D1 receptor agonist action on either the MPOA or NAs can substitute for the effects of estradiol in stimulating the onset of maternal behavior, suggesting an overlap in underlying cellular mechanisms between estradiol and DA. Maternal memory involves the neural plasticity effects of mesolimbic DA activity. Finally, early life stressors may affect the development of MPOA-DA interactions and maternal behavior.

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