Artificial rearing causes changes in maternal behavior and c-fos expression in juvenile female rats.
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This study investigated the effects of early-rearing experiences on responsiveness to pups and on the pattern of c-fos activation in the brain of juvenile female rats. From Days 4 to 20, littermate females were reared with their mothers (MR) or artificially (AR). AR rats received minimal licking-like tactile stimulation (AR-min) or maximal stimulation (AR-max). On Day 20, rats were exposed to pups for 4 or 8 days, exposed to a playmate for 4 or 8 days, or left in isolation for 4 or 8 days. Compared with MR rats, pup-exposed AR rats engaged in less pup licking, and all AR rats showed significant reductions in c-fos immunoreactivity in the medial preoptic area and the parietal and piriform cortices. The AR-min group showed the greatest difference in Fos-lir compared with the MR groups. Possible mechanisms that mediate the effects of rearing on the development of neural circuits underlying maternal behavior are discussed.
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