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Maternal care influences brain chemistry into adulthood
Date:12/7/2011

This press release is available in German.

Neuropeptide Y (NPY) is the most abundant peptide hormone of the central nervous system. It is involved in various processes including stress management, the development of anxiety behaviour and body weight regulation. A collaborative research group including scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg has demonstrated using mice that intensive maternal care during infancy promotes the effect of NPY in the brain. As a result of receiving such care, the animals were also less anxious in adulthood and weighed more than their counterparts who had received less affection. The research group was able to show that the effect is explained by the maternal care which stimulated the persistent formation of certain NPY receptors in the forebrain.

Neuropeptide Y (NPY) assumes several key roles in the brain's complex control circuits. The messenger substance not only influences body weight but also controls, among other things, the development of anxiety and stress responses. Hence NPY plays an important role in a series of mental illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorders and anxiety disorders. NPY takes effect in the brain by binding to different docking sites on the neurons the NPY receptors. In this way, the hormone triggers signal cascades which control the different physical functions.

In a study on mice carried out in Rolf Sprengel from the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research and his colleagues in Italy have shown that the effect of NPY depends on how much care and attention the young animals experienced in the first three weeks of life. Mice who had received little care from their mothers were more anxious adults than their counterparts who had received intensive attention in their early weeks of life. They also remained slimmer throughout their lives. As
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Contact: Dr. Rolf Sprengel
Rolf.Sprengel@mpimf-heidelberg.mpg.de
49-622-148-6101
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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