New research provides insight into how a profound remodeling of cell morphology in a specific brain region —the medial preoptic area (MOPA)— might relate to individual differences in maternal behavior.
Both pregnancy hormones and pup sensory stimuli increase neuronal activation leading to a remodeling of neuronal circuits within certain brain regions, including the MPOA, that increases maternal responsiveness in rats. The structural brain changes that occur during pregnancy and lactation are adaptive; they ensure the new mother is adequately prepared to raise her young.
Ludmer Centre researchers, Dr Tie-Yuan Zhang at McGill University and Sackler colleagues at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute, found the activity of a specific protein (CREB) in the MOPA of the brain might associate with the remodeling of cell morphology in lactating rats. Specifically, CREB activity in this area associates with maternal behavior and reduced dendritic complexity, possibly by increasing Rem2 expression. Rem2 is a member of the Rad/Rem/Rem2/Gem/Kir subfamily of small Ras-like GTPases that has been identified as an important mediator of synapse development.
Understanding the mechanism influencing maternal behavior will inform intervention and prevention strategies targeting those in need of assistance.
Publication: Parent C, Wen X, Dhir SK, Ryan R, Diorio J, Zhang TY (May 2017) Maternal care associates with differences in morphological complexity in the medial preoptic area. J of Behavioural Brain Research 326 (2017) 22–32
Institutions collaborating in the research:
- Sackler Program for Epigenetics and Developmental Psychobiology at McGill University
- Douglas Mental Health University Institute, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec Canada
- Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada