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Behav Neurosci. 1988 Jun;102(3):381-96.

Axon-sparing lesions of the preoptic region and substantia innominata disrupt maternal behavior in rats.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts 02167.


In this study we investigated the effects of axon-sparing lesions of the preoptic region on the maternal behavior of postpartum rats. The lesions were produced with the excitotoxic amino acid N-methyl-D,L-aspartic acid (NMA). The first experiment determined that bilateral injections of NMA into the medial preoptic area (MPOA) of fully maternal lactating rats disrupted maternal behavior. In a second experiment, bilateral injections of NMA into the lateral preoptic area and adjoining substantia innominata (LP/SI region) also disrupted maternal behavior. A third experiment, employing horseradish peroxidase histochemistry, provided anatomical evidence that NMA destroys neuronal cell bodies while sparing fibers of passage. These findings were discussed with respect to the view that an MPOA-to-LP/SI-to-ventral tegmental area circuit underlies maternal behavior in the rat.

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