Holschbach MA, Lonstein JS (2011) Diminished norepinephrine release in the BSTv decreases anxiety but does not promote maternal behavior in nulliparous female rats. Neuroscience 2011 Abstracts 86.06. Society for Neuroscience, Washington, DC.
Summary: Postpartum caregiving heavily depends on both increased motivation to interact with offspring and decreased emotional reactivity. The early postpartum period is associated with reduced anxiety in mammals, which may promote contact with potentially anxiogenic young. The ventral bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BSTv) is associated with both anxiety and maternal behaviors in laboratory rats and may be a site of integration for mediating tradeoffs between mothering and emotional reactivity. Our laboratory has previously shown that increasing norepinphrine (NE) release in the BSTv of postpartum rats via infusion of an autoreceptor antagonist increases dams’ anxiety behaviors to levels seen in untreated virgin rats. Interestingly, this treatment also disrupts maternal retrieval of pups (Smith and Lonstein, SFN 2009). Unlike postpartum rats, nulliparous females are not spontaneously maternal, and we hypothesized that if NE release in the BSTv disrupts maternal behaviors even in highly motivated postpartum rats, it may greatly hinder expression of maternal behaviors in virgins. To investigate whether depleting NE input to the BSTv is sufficient to reduce anxiety and promote maternal behavior in virgin female rats we injected an antiserum- based neurotoxin selective for noradrenergic fibers and cells (anti-dopamine beta-hydroxylase-saporin; anti-DBH-SAP; 50 mg/side), into the BSTv of ovariectomized virgin female rats. Two weeks later, we examined females’ anxiety behavior in an elevated plus maze and the next day began a maternal sensitization procedure. We placed three recently fed pups into each animal’s homecage and observed behavior for the following fifteen minutes each day until rats exhibited full maternal behavior (i.e. retrieved all three pups to a common nest site and hovered over them) during three consecutive tests. Histological analysis of the brains confirmed that anti-DBH-SAP greatly reduced NE fiber content in the BSTv. Compared to control animals injected with artificial CSF, animals injected with anti-DBH-SAP showed reduced anxiety in an elevated plus maze. Anti-DBH-SAP did not, however, reduce the latency to show full maternal behavior. Thus, although reduced anxiety permits or promotes expression of maternal behaviors in already motivated postpartum rats, reducing BSTv-mediated anxiety is not sufficient to facilitate maternal responsiveness without otherwise activating maternal motivational systems.
Related Products: Anti-DBH-SAP (Cat. #IT-03)