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Brain Res. 1998 Aug 31;804(1):21-35.

Site and behavioral specificity of periaqueductal gray lesions on postpartum sexual, maternal, and aggressive behaviors in rats.

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Department of Psychology, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ 08903, USA.


Bilateral electrolytic lesions of the lateral and ventrolateral caudal periaqueductal gray (cPAGl,vl) of lactating rats are known to severely reduce suckling-induced kyphosis (upright crouched nursing), which is necessary for maximal litter weight gains, and impair sexual behavior during the postpartum estrous, while heightening nursing in other postures and attacks on unfamiliar adult male intruders. In the present report, the site specificity of the cPAG with respect to the control of these behaviors was determined by comparing lesions of the cPAGl,vl with similarly sized lesions within the rostral PAG (rPAG) and surrounding mesencephalon. The previously seen effects of prepartum cPAGl,vl lesions on kyphotic nursing, sexual proceptivity and receptivity, maternal aggression, and daily litter weight gains were replicated. Additionally, the post-lesion facilitation of aggression was found to be behaviorally specific, first by being directed toward an adult, but not to a nonthreatening juvenile male rat, and second, by requiring the recent presence of the pups, being eliminated or decreased 24 h after removal of the litter. Damage to the rPAG did not affect nursing or sexual behaviors, and had only a minimal effect on maternal aggression. Lesions of the rPAG, however, greatly impaired the dams' ability to rapidly release pups held in the mouth, but not to pick them up or carry them directly to the nest during retrieval. Separate regions of the PAG, therefore, are differentially involved in the control of specific components of behaviors in lactating rats.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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