Hormones, Learning, and Memory

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Science  28 Mar 2003:
Vol. 299, Issue 5615, pp. 1949
DOI: 10.1126/science.299.5615.1949a

Mammalian motherhood brings a multitude of responsibilities in ensuring the survival of newborns—finding provisions and safe dwellings, and then remembering these locations. In fact, pregnancy and motherhood are thought to enhance cognition, and Tomizawa et al. report that the hormone oxytocin can improve late-phase long-term potentiation (L-LTP) in female mice that have given birth and are nursing. Oxytocin is known to control uterine contractions during labor, as well as behaviors such as grooming and nursing. Oxytocin is also produced in neurons that innervate the hippocampus, a brain region important for memory formation. Exposure of hippocampal brain slices to oxytocin increased L-LTP and phosphorylation of the cyclic AMP response element-binding protein (CREB), a change known to be associated with L-LTP induction, and pharmacological inhibitors implicated mitogen-activated protein kinase as mediating an oxytocin signaling pathway. Finally, CREB phosphorylation, L-LTP, and spatial memory all were reduced when female mice were injected with an oxytocin antagonist during pregnancy and then examined 10 days postpartum. — LDC

NatureNeurosci. 10.1038/nn1023 (2003).

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