Using c-Fos immunocytochemistry to identify forebrain regions that may inhibit maternal behavior in rats

Teige P. Sheehan, John Cirrito, Marilyn J. Numan, Michael Numan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

104 Scopus citations

Abstract

Evidence indicates there is a neural system that inhibits maternal behavior in virgin rats. It has been suggested that pregnancy hormones promote the onset of maternal behavior by reducing the behavioral influence of this system. The authors used c-Fos immunocytochemistry to identify brain regions more activated by pup exposure in nonmaternal rats than in maternal rats. Previous experiments indicated that some of these regions, such as the posterodorsal medial amygdala and several medial hypothalamic sites, inhibit maternal behavior. For others, such as the ventral lateral septum, dorsal premammillary nucleus, and principal bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, this is the first indication that they could also inhibit maternal responding. These regions have previously been implicated in promoting defensive behaviors, consistent with the finding that nonmaternal rats actively avoid pups. These findings suggest the existence of a neural circuit through which pup exposure could promote defensive responses in virgin rats, and how pregnancy hormones could reduce such activity to stimulate maternal behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)337-352
Number of pages16
JournalBehavioral Neuroscience
Volume114
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2000

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