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Psychoneuroendocrinology. 1988;13(1-2):29-46.

Hormonal basis during pregnancy for the onset of maternal behavior in the rat.

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  • 1Institute of Animal Behavior, Rutgers State University, Newark, New Jersey 07102.

Abstract

This article reviews the current state of our knowledge about the hormonal basis of maternal behavior in the rat. Considered are the ovarian hormones estrogen and progesterone, the pituitary hormones beta-endorphin and prolactin, and the hormone oxytocin, secreted by several hypothalamic nuclei and associated brain regions. The hormones of pregnancy, estrogen and progesterone, prime the female to respond to a terminal rise in estrogen that stimulates a high level of maternal responsiveness even before parturition begins. Studies on the role of prolactin, using hypophysectomy, prolactin release blockers and anterior pituitary and prolactin replacement, indicate that prolactin is required for the ovarian hormones to be effective in stimulating maternal behavior. During the latter half of pregnancy, placental lactogen may displace prolactin in this role. Although prolactin serves as a chronic stimulus for maternal behavior, it also may act over a short period. Oxytocin stimulates maternal behavior in a specific strain of rat, but not in other strains, and only when administered introcerebroventricularly (ICV) in estrogen-primed females. The decline in the high brain levels of beta-endorphin around parturition has been proposed as a requirement for the onset of maternal behavior; morphine blocks the onset of maternal behavior and disrupts ongoing maternal behavior and maternal aggression in lactating females. However, blocking beta-endorphin action at parturition interferes with pup cleaning and eating of the placenta as well.

PMID:
2967517
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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