Implications of temporal variation in maternal care for the prediction of neurobiological and behavioral outcomes in offspring

Catherine Jensen Peña, Frances A. Champagne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

28 Scopus citations

Abstract

Previous studies in Long-Evans rats demonstrated a significant relationship between variation in pup licking/grooming and arched-back nursing (LG-ABN) and offspring development. However, maternal care is dynamic and exhibits significant temporal variation. In the current study, we assessed temporal variation in LG and ABN in lactating rats across the circadian cycle and determined the impact of these behaviors for the prediction of offspring hypothalamic gene expression, anxiety-like behavior, and responsiveness to a high fat diet (HFD). We find that distinguishing between dams that engage in stable individual differences in maternal behavior (Low, Mid, High) requires assessment across the light-dark phases of the light cycle and across multiple postpartum days. Among juvenile female offspring, we find a positive correlation between maternal LG and mRNA levels of estrogen receptor alpha and beta and the oxytocin receptor (when LG is assessed across the light-dark cycle or in the dark phase). In young adults, we find sex-specific effects, with female High LG offspring exhibiting increased exploration of a novel environment and increased latency to approach HFD, and male High LG offspring displaying increased activity in a novel environment and reduced HFD consumption. Importantly, these effects on behavior were primarily evident when LG was assessed across the light-dark cycle and ABN was not associated with these measures. Overall, our findings illustrate the dissociation between the effects of LG and ABN on offspring development and provide critical insights into the temporal characteristics of maternal behavior that have methodological implications for the study of maternal effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-46
Number of pages14
JournalBehavioral Neuroscience
Volume127
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Behavioral Neuroscience

Keywords

  • Circadian
  • High fat diet
  • Long-Evans rats
  • Medial preoptic area
  • Open-field test

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