Indexed on: 28 Oct '05Published on: 28 Oct '05Published in: Behavioral and cognitive neuroscience reviews
Maternal behaviors in rodents include a number of subcomponents, such as nursing, nest building, licking and grooming of pups, pup retrieval, and maternal aggression. Because each behavior involves a unique motor pattern, a unique ensemble neural circuitry must underlie each behavior. To what extent there is overlap in terms of brain regions and specific neurons for each circuit is being actively investigated. This review will first examine overlapping and separate components of pup retrieval and maternal aggression circuitries while examining a central role for medial preoptic area (MPA) in both behaviors. With an emphasis on experimental approaches, the review will then highlight recent findings and propose future directions for understanding maternal behavior regulation. Finally, examples for why studying the neural basis of maternal behaviors can bring insights to other areas of neuroscience, such as feeding, addiction, and anxiety and aggression regulation will be provided.