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Lactation changes how mom's neurons communicate -- but it's reversible

Prolactin-controlling neurons in mice undergo reversible changes in electrical signaling

Society for Neuroscience

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IMAGE: The membrane voltage of TIDA neurons oscillates more during lactation (right). view more 

Credit: Thörn Pérez et al., JNeurosci 2020

Lactation temporarily changes how a mother's neurons behave, according to new research in mice published in JNeurosci.

Mothers experience profound changes in their body after giving birth, many of which are controlled by the hormone prolactin. Neurons in the hypothalamus called TIDA neurons regulate prolactin secretion as it fluctuates during the estrous cycle. However, during lactation, the TIDA neurons stop keeping prolactin levels in check, teasing the possibility that they may be altering their properties in response to motherhood.

Thörn Pérez et al. examined the electrical behavior of TIDA neurons in mice both during lactation and throughout the estrous cycle. In order to regulate prolactin, the voltage of TIDA neurons oscillates up and down: when the cell voltage is less negative, it fires more often, while a more negative cell fires less often. The scientists observed that the cell voltage oscillates more frequently during lactation, meaning it fires more often overall. They also fire out of rhythm with each other. These changes are fully reversible -- the cells return to normal when the moms start weaning. During all stages of the estrous cycle, the neurons behaved normally, meaning the neurons change because of motherhood, rather than prolactin levels.

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Manuscript title: Adaptive Resetting of Tuberoinfundibular Dopamine (TIDA) Network Activity During Lactation in Mice

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About JNeurosci

JNeurosci, the Society for Neuroscience's first journal, was launched in 1981 as a means to communicate the findings of the highest quality neuroscience research to the growing field. Today, the journal remains committed to publishing cutting-edge neuroscience that will have an immediate and lasting scientific impact, while responding to authors' changing publishing needs, representing breadth of the field and diversity in authorship.

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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