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Science. 1999 Nov 5;286(5442):1155-8.

Nongenomic transmission across generations of maternal behavior and stress responses in the rat.

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Developmental Neuroendocrinology Laboratory, Douglas Hospital Research Centre, Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, Montreal, H4H 1R3, Canada.


In the rat, variations in maternal care appear to influence the development of behavioral and endocrine responses to stress in the offspring. The results of cross-fostering studies reported here provide evidence for (i) a causal relationship between maternal behavior and stress reactivity in the offspring and (ii) the transmission of such individual differences in maternal behavior from one generation of females to the next. Moreover, an environmental manipulation imposed during early development that alters maternal behavior can then affect the pattern of transmission in subsequent generations. Taken together, these findings indicate that variations in maternal care can serve as the basis for a nongenomic behavioral transmission of individual differences in stress reactivity across generations.

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