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Neuroscience. 2009 Oct 20;163(3):790-8. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2009.07.008. Epub 2009 Jul 8.

Paternal deprivation during infancy results in dendrite- and time-specific changes of dendritic development and spine formation in the orbitofrontal cortex of the biparental rodent Octodon degus.

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1
Department of Zoology/Developmental Neurobiology, Otto von Guericke University, Leipziger Strabetae 44, Building 91, 39120 Magdeburg, Germany.

Abstract

The aim of this study in the biparental rodent Octodon degus was to assess the impact of paternal deprivation on neuronal and synaptic development in the orbitofrontal cortex, a prefrontal region which is essential for emotional and cognitive function. On the behavioral level the quantitative comparison of parental behaviors in biparental and single-mother families revealed that (i) degu fathers significantly participate in parental care and (ii) single-mothers do not increase their maternal care to compensate the lack of paternal care. On the brain structural level we show in three-week-old father-deprived animals that layer II/III pyramidal neurons in the orbitofrontal cortex displayed significantly lower spine densities on apical and basal dendrites. Whereas biparentally raised animals have reached adult spine density values at postnatal day 21, fatherless animals seem "to catch up" by a delayed increase of spine density until reaching similar values as biparentally raised animals in adulthood. However, in adulthood reduced apical spine numbers together with shorter apical dendrites were observed in father-deprived animals, which indicates that dendritic growth and synapse formation (seen in biparental animals between postnatal day 21 and adulthood) were significantly suppressed. These results demonstrate that paternal deprivation delays and partly suppresses the development of orbitofrontal circuits. The retarded dendritic and synaptic development of the apical dendrites of layer II/III pyramidal neurons in the orbitofrontal cortex of adult fatherless animals may reflect a reduced excitatory connectivity of this cortical subregion.

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