Intergenerational effects of complete maternal deprivation and replacement stimulation on maternal behavior and emotionality in female rats
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The present study investigated the effects of early rearing experiences on the development of maternal behavior in Sprague-Dawley female rats. Pups from individual litters were assigned to four different groups on Day 3 of life. From days 4 to 20 of life, these were reared artificially, without mother and receiving minimal "licking-like" tactile stimulation (AR-MIN), or maximal stimulation (AR-MAX) or were reared with their mothers (MR-CONTROL and MR-SHAM). At 70-100 days all AR and MR animals were mated and then observed with their own offspring, culled to eight pups. After maternal testing open-field tests were conducted. The female offspring in these litters (all raised by their MR and AR mothers) were reared to adulthood and then observed interacting with their offspring. Results show that in adulthood AR mothers engaged in significantly fewer pup-retrievals and less pup-licking (genital and body), and crouching, but significantly more non-maternal tail-chasing, digging, and hanging/climbing. As well, they were more active in the open field. Comparisons between the two AR groups and the MR groups, showed that most of the differences were between the AR-MIN and MR groups, with the AR-MAX animals showing levels of behavior between the two, and differing from neither. Analyses of covariance indicated that early experience and adult emotional behavior both influence adult maternal behavior, but their effects are independent of one another. A cross-generational effect of artificial rearing was also found. Daughters of AR and MR mothers that were observed after the birth of their own litters in adulthood showed a pattern of behavior that mimicked the pattern shown by their mothers. These results are discussed in terms of the variety of possible behavioral, endocrine, and neurochemical mechanisms that mediate the effects of early experiences on adult maternal behavior.
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