Artificially-reared female rats show reduced prepulse inhibition and deficits in the attentional set shifting task--reversal of effects with maternal-like licking stimulation

Behav Brain Res. 2004 Jan 5;148(1-2):209-19. doi: 10.1016/s0166-4328(03)00206-7.


Mammalian nervous system is plastic, particularly during early stages of development. Rat neonates that are reared without mothers, grow up to show deficient maternal behavior towards their own offspring. The purpose of this study was to assess whether maternal behavior deficits, seen in artificially-reared (AR) female rats, are associated with attentional deficits. Female rat pups were reared with or without their mothers, through artificial rearing. In adulthood, rats' maternal behavior and performance on attentional tasks (prepulse inhibition (PPI) of the startle response and attentional set shifting task) were assessed. We found that AR rats showed: decreased maternal pup licking and time crouching over pups, less PPI, and more trials to criterion in several stages of the attentional set shifting task. Artificially-reared rats that were provided with 'maternal-like licking' stimulation, during artificial rearing, were not significantly different from mother-reared rats. In addition, there was a significant correlation between maternal behaviors and both PPI and the performance in the attentional set shifting task.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology
  • Female
  • Inhibition, Psychological
  • Intergenerational Relations*
  • Maternal Behavior / physiology*
  • Maternal Deprivation*
  • Models, Biological
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reflex, Startle / physiology
  • Reversal Learning
  • Smell / physiology
  • Time Factors