"We were able to show that the expression of the NPY1 receptor in the young animals' limbic system is increased by good maternal care," explains Rolf Sprengel. "This ensures their healthy development in the long term." The positive effects of maternal care and attention were evidenced by the fact that the young animals gained weight faster and showed greater courage in behavioural experiments as adults than rodents which had experienced little warmth and security after birth.
For their study, the scientists had newborn mice, in which the NPY1 receptors had been switched off selectively, raised by mothers who differed in their behaviour towards the young animals. One group belonged to a mouse strain that was exemplary in caring for its young. These females spent a lot of time with their offspring, fed them frequently and, in addition to extensive grooming, also provided intensive physical contact. In young animals which grew up under such conditions, new NPY-1 receptors formed in the brain's limbic system. The second group of females were programmed to take far less care of the young. In this case, the number of NPY1 receptors in the young mice did not increase.
The neuroscientists' findings help us to reach a better understanding of how experience in the early life of an organism can affect it in later life. "The results of the study show how maternal care and attention have a sustained impact on the chemistry of the limbic system," says Rolf Sprengel. Maternal behaviour can influence the emotions and physical constitution into adulthood in this way.
|Contact: Dr. Rolf Sprengel|