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Maternal Care, Hippocampal Glucocorticoid Receptors, and Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Responses to Stress

Science  12 Sep 1997:
Vol. 277, Issue 5332, pp. 1659-1662
DOI: 10.1126/science.277.5332.1659

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Abstract

Variations in maternal care affect the development of individual differences in neuroendocrine responses to stress in rats. As adults, the offspring of mothers that exhibited more licking and grooming of pups during the first 10 days of life showed reduced plasma adrenocorticotropic hormone and corticosterone responses to acute stress, increased hippocampal glucocorticoid receptor messenger RNA expression, enhanced glucocorticoid feedback sensitivity, and decreased levels of hypothalamic corticotropin-releasing hormone messenger RNA. Each measure was significantly correlated with the frequency of maternal licking and grooming (all r's > −0.6). These findings suggest that maternal behavior serves to “program” hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal responses to stress in the offspring.

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