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Behav Neurosci. 2005 Aug;119(4):1084-96.

Maternal experience produces long-lasting behavioral modifications in the rat.

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Department of Psychology, Randolph-Macon College, Ashland, VA 23005, USA.


From 5 to 22 months of age, cognitive and emotional responses of nulliparous, primiparous, and multiparous rats were assessed using a dry land maze (DLM) and an elevated plus-maze (EPM) at 4-month intervals. Parous rats exhibited improved spatial memory in the probe and competitive versions of the DLM, and more exploration in the EPM and a novel stimulus test relative to nulliparous females. The nulliparous females, however, outperformed parous rats during the DLM visual cue test at 17 months of age. At 23 months, no differences in stressed corticosterone levels or Golgi-stained hippocampal neurons were observed. Thus, cognitive and emotional modifications were observed in parous rats; the neurobiological mechanisms for these enduring effects, however, remain to be identified.

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