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Perinatal visceral events and brain mechanisms involved in the development of mother-young bonding in sheep.

Review article
Nowak R, et al. Horm Behav. 2007.


In sheep the onset of maternal responsiveness and the development of the mutual mother-young bond are under the combined influence of hormonal and visceral somatosensory stimulations. These stimuli are provided in the mother by parturition (via steroids and vaginocervical stimulation) and in the neonate by the first suckling episodes (via cholecystokinin and oro-gastro-intestinal stimulation). In addition, each partner relies on specific chemosensory stimulation for reciprocal attraction: amniotic fluids for the mother, colostrum for the young. In the ewe parturition activates several brain structures to respond specifically to sensory cues emanating from the young. The main olfactory bulbs undergo profound neurophysiological changes when exposed to offspring odors at parturition. Additional activations in the hypothalamus - preoptic area - and the amygdala - medial and cortical nuclei - also contribute to maternal responsiveness and memorization of lamb odors. In the neonate, post-ingestive stimulations activate the brain stem via vagal afferents. Like in the ewe, several regions of the hypothalamus and the amygdala respond to colostrum ingestion suggesting common ground for the integrative neural processes involved in early learning and bonding. This leads to rapid visual and auditory recognition in both partners although olfaction remains important in the ewe to display selective nursing. It is concluded that the biological basis for the development of maternal and filial bonding in sheep presents striking similarities.


17488646 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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