Effects of multiparity on recognition memory, monoaminergic neurotransmitters, and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)

Horm Behav. 2008 Jun;54(1):7-17. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2007.08.011. Epub 2007 Aug 31.


Recognition memory and anxiety were examined in nulliparous (NP: 0 litters) and multiparous (MP: 5-6 litters) middle-aged female rats (12 months old) to assess possible enduring effects of multiparity at least 3 months after the last litter was weaned. MP females performed significantly better than NP females on the non-spatial memory task, object recognition, and the spatial memory task, object placement. Anxiety as measured on the elevated plus maze did not differ between groups. Monoaminergic activity and levels were measured in prefrontal cortex, CA1 hippocampus, CA3 hippocampus, and olfactory bulb (OB). NP and MP females differed in monoamine concentrations in the OB only, with MP females having significantly greater concentrations of dopamine and metabolite DOPAC, norepinephrine and metabolite MHPG, and the serotonin metabolite 5-HIAA, as compared to NP females. These results indicate a long-term change in OB neurochemistry as a result of multiparity. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) was also measured in hippocampus (CA1, CA3, dentate gyrus) and septum. MP females had higher BDNF levels in both CA1 and septum; as these regions are implicated in memory performance, elevated BDNF may underlie the observed memory task differences. Thus, MP females (experiencing multiple bouts of pregnancy, birth, and pup rearing during the first year of life) displayed enhanced memory task performance but equal anxiety responses, as compared to NP females. These results are consistent with previous studies showing long-term changes in behavioral function in MP, as compared to NP, rats and suggest that alterations in monoamines and a neurotrophin, BDNF, may contribute to the observed behavioral changes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Biogenic Monoamines / metabolism
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / blood
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Maze Learning / physiology
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Neurotransmitter Transport Proteins / metabolism
  • Neurotransmitter Transport Proteins / physiology*
  • Parity / physiology*
  • Pattern Recognition, Physiological / physiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred F344
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Septum of Brain / metabolism


  • Biogenic Monoamines
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Neurotransmitter Transport Proteins