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J Neuroendocrinol. 2011 Nov;23(11):1166-76. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2826.2011.02208.x.

Paternal deprivation affects the development of corticotrophin-releasing factor-expressing neurones in prefrontal cortex, amygdala and hippocampus of the biparental Octodon degus.

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Institute of Biology, Department of Zoology/Developmental Neurobiology, Otto-von-Guericke University, Magdeburg, Germany.


Although the critical role of maternal care on the development of brain and behaviour of the offspring has been extensively studied, knowledge about the importance of paternal care is comparatively scarce. In biparental species, paternal care significantly contributes to a stimulating socio-emotional family environment, which most likely also includes protection from stressful events. In the biparental caviomorph rodent Octodon degus, we analysed the impact of paternal care on the development of neurones in prefrontal-limbic brain regions, which express corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF). CRF is a polypeptidergic hormone that is expressed and released by a neuronal subpopulation in the brain, and which not only is essential for regulating stress and emotionality, but also is critically involved in cognitive functions. At weaning age [postnatal day (P)21], paternal deprivation resulted in an elevated density of CRF-containing neurones in the orbitofrontal cortex and in the basolateral amygdala of male degus, whereas a reduced density of CRF-expressing neurones was measured in the dentate gyrus and stratum pyramidale of the hippocampal CA1 region at this age. With the exception of the CA1 region, the deprivation-induced changes were no longer evident in adulthood (P90), which suggests a transient change that, in later life, might be normalised by other socio-emotional experience. The central amygdala, characterised by dense clusters of CRF-immunopositive neuropil, and the precentral medial, anterior cingulate, infralimbic and prelimbic cortices, were not affected by paternal deprivation. Taken together, this is the first evidence that paternal care interferes with the developmental expression pattern of CRF-expressing interneurones in an age- and region-specific manner.

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