Tufts: Maternal behavior breeds brain development

Dec 23, 2009
By dvm360.com staff
North Grafton, Mass. -- Maternal behavior can trigger the development of new neurons, and it doesn't matter whether the female was pregnant or just nursed, according to a new study from the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.

The study, published in Brain Research Bulletin, exposed virgin rats to foster pups each day until they exhibited maternal behavior. Previous research has found that exposure to young can stimulate maternal behavior, and that pregnancy and lactation has increased creation of new neurons, but studies of maternal behavior in virgin rats have never been conducted before this study.

What stimulates the growth of new neurons is unknown, but could be attributed to the hormone prolactin, according to researchers. The study was funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.