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Mother's touch supports pup's brain development

Rodent research shows how separating child from mother could derail brain development

Society for Neuroscience

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IMAGE: A mother's presence may have immediate and long-term effects on her child's developing brain by modulating the serotonin system, suggests a study of rat moms and their pups published in... view more 

Credit: Courtiol et al., eNeuro (2018)

A mother's presence may have immediate and long-term effects on her child's developing brain by modulating the serotonin system, suggests a study of rat moms and their pups published in eNeuro. The research provides a potential mechanism by which separating a child from his or her mother early in life could derail development.

By wirelessly recording the brain activity of rat pups during interaction with their mother, Catia Teixeira and colleagues provide evidence for a direct connection between maternal care and the neurotransmitter serotonin -- two factors known to be crucially involved in brain development. The researchers demonstrate that a mother's presence in the nest increases activity in the pups' prefrontal cortex, a slowly developing brain region rich in serotonin receptors. Blocking these receptors counteracted the effect, while treating isolated pups with the selective-serotonin-reuptake-inhibitor fluoxetine increased prefrontal cortex activity similarly to that observed in the mother's presence. These results implicate maternal contact and the serotonin system as important regulators of neuronal activity in the developing brain.

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Article: Maternal regulation of pups' cortical activity: role of serotonergic signaling

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1523/ENEURO.0093-18.2018

Corresponding author: Catia Teixeira (Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research, Orangeburg, NY, USA), catia.teixeira@nki.rfmh.org

About eNeuro

eNeuro, the Society for Neuroscience's open-access journal launched in 2014, publishes rigorous neuroscience research with double-blind peer review that masks the identity of both the authors and reviewers, minimizing the potential for implicit biases. eNeuro is distinguished by a broader scope and balanced perspective achieved by publishing negative results, failure to replicate or replication studies. New research, computational neuroscience, theories and methods are also published.

About The Society for Neuroscience

The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.

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