The effects of adrenalectomy and corticosterone replacement on induction of maternal behavior in the virgin female rat
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Maternal behavior of the sensitized virgin rat is affected by approach-avoidance systems as well as by hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which is also activated during stress. The present experiments investigated the effects of adrenalectomy and of varying corticosterone concentrations on the onset and expression of maternal behavior in sensitized virgin rats. In the first experiment, latency to onset of maternal behavior and time spent licking once maternal were positively related to endogenous levels of corticosterone. However, few rats showed licking. In the second experiment, virgin rats were adrenalectomized or given sham surgeries before being sensitized and being given 0, 25, 100, 300, or 500 microg/mL of corticosterone in their drinking water. In the third experiment, virgin rats were adrenalectomized or given sham surgeries and given either control or corticosterone time-release pellets after being sensitized. Maternal behavior was then tested. Adrenalectomy increased licking in the second experiment and time over pups in the third experiment. Corticosterone replacement reduced licking in the second experiment and both licking and time over pups in the third experiment. In conclusion, exogenous corticosterone had an inhibitory effect on the expression of maternal behavior in the sensitized virgin rat, unlike the facilitatory effect previously found in the postpartum rat.
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