Early motherhood in rats is associated with a modification of hippocampal function

Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2007 Aug;32(7):803-12. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2007.05.012. Epub 2007 Jul 19.


The transition to motherhood results in a number of hormonal, neurological and behavioral changes necessary to ensure offspring survival. However, little attention has been paid to changes not directly linked to reproductive function in the early mother. In this study, we demonstrate that spatial performances during the learning phase were impaired after the delivery in rats, while spatial retention ability was improved 2 weeks later. In addition, we also report that early motherhood reduced the cell proliferation in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus without inducing a decrease in the newborn cells 2 weeks later. The decrease of estradiol levels and high levels of glucocorticoids after delivery could in part explain the changes in the hippocampal function. In summary, our findings suggest that early postpartum period is associated with a modification of hippocampal function. This may reflect a homeostatic form of hippocampal plasticity in response to the onset of the maternal experience.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antimetabolites
  • Bromodeoxyuridine
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cell Survival / physiology
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Corticosterone / blood
  • Dentate Gyrus / cytology
  • Dentate Gyrus / growth & development
  • Estradiol / blood
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / growth & development
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Maze Learning / physiology
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Space Perception / physiology


  • Antimetabolites
  • Estradiol
  • Bromodeoxyuridine
  • Corticosterone