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Psychopharmacology

Effects of noradrenergic alpha-2 receptor antagonism or noradrenergic lesions in the ventral bed nucleus of the stria terminalis and medial preoptic area on maternal care in female rats.


PMID 22644129

Abstract

Maternal behavior in laboratory rats requires a network of brain structures including the ventral bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BSTv) and medial preoptic area (mPOA). Neurotransmitter systems in the BSTv and mPOA influencing maternal behaviors are not well understood, although norepinephrine is an excellent candidate because the BSTv contains the densest noradrenergic fiber plexus in the forebrain and norepinephrine in the mPOA is known to influence other female reproductive functions. We hypothesized that downregulated noradrenergic activity in the BSTv and mPOA is necessary for mothering. Postpartum mother-litter interactions were observed after BSTv infusion of yohimbine (an α2 autoreceptor antagonist that increases norepinephrine release), and after BSTv or mPOA infusion of the more selective α2 autoreceptor antagonist idazoxan. Lastly, noradrenergic input to the BSTv/mPOA was selectively lesioned in nulliparous rats with anti-DBH-saporin to determine if this would facilitate mothering. BSTv yohimbine almost abolished retrieval of pups but did not significantly affect dams' ability to initiate contact, lick, or nurse them. BSTv idazoxan disrupted retrieval somewhat less than yohimbine, but significantly reduced nursing. mPOA idazoxan impaired retrieval more severely than that found after BSTv infusion. Anti-DBH-saporin almost eliminated noradrenergic terminals in the BSTv and reduced them by over 60% in the mPOA, but did not promote maternal responding. It also did not affect females' anxiety-related behavior. Downregulated noradrenergic activity in the BSTv and mPOA is necessary for postpartum maternal behavior in rats, but eliminating this system alone is insufficient to promote maternal behaviors in nulliparous females.