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Reproduction-Induced Neuroplasticity: Natural Behavioural and Neuronal Alterations Associated with the Production and Care of Offspring

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As a female transitions into motherhood, many neurobiological adaptations are required to meet the demands presented by her offspring. In addition to the traditional maternal responses (e.g. crouching, nursing, retrieving, grooming), our laboratories have observed several behavioural modifications accompanying parity, especially in the areas of foraging and emotional resilience. Additionally, brain modifications have been observed in the hippocampus and amygdala, providing support for neural plasticity extending beyond the expected hypothalamic alterations. Interestingly, we have observed parenting-induced neuroplasticity to persist into late adulthood, even providing protection against age-related brain and memory deficits. Although the majority of work on the parental brain has been conducted on females, preliminary research suggests similar changes in the biparental male California deer mouse. Taken together, research suggests that the parental brain is dynamic and changeable as it undergoes diverse and, in some cases, long-lasting, modifications to facilitate the production and care of offspring.
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Keywords: enriched environment; foraging; hippocampus; neuroplasticity; neurotrophins

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology, Center for Neuroscience, University of Richmond, Richmond, VA, USA. 2: Department of Psychology, Randolph-Macon College, Ashland, VA, USA.

Publication date: 01 April 2008

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