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Experiential Factors in Postpartum Regulation of Maternal Care

Elsevier Science & Technology
DOI: 10.1016/s0065-3454(08)60336-8
  • Biology
  • Chemistry


Publisher Summary This chapter focuses on mechanisms that underlie experiences acquired when a new mammalian mother first interacts with her young and the effects of this experience on her later responses to these same young and to subsequent offspring. It discusses the ways in which experiences acquired by the mother reinforce and, in some instances, supplant the “motivational” effects of the maternal hormones and thereby increase the probability of the offspring's survival, and hence, the mother's reproductive fitness. These experiences usually enhance mothers' nurturant behavior but, if negative, may have the opposite effect. The chapter considers the role of (1) the parturitional hormones, estradiol, progesterone, prolactin, and oxytocin; and (2) stimulation provided by the young, primarily through the smell and touch senses. It explores ways in which the postpartum experience impacts on mechanisms regulating later maternal behavior and lactational processes. The extent to which maternal learning shares properties with learning within other behavioral contexts in terms of its temporal and behavioral parameters and in terms of its physiology is considered. The chapter also considers the involvement in maternal learning of proteins and neurotransmitters known to be implicated in other appetitive learning, focusing primarily on the monoamines, dopamine, and norepinephrine. It discusses neuroanatomy of maternal experience based on lesion, stimulation, and immunohistochemical studies.

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