Maternal care differentially affects neuronal excitability and synaptic plasticity in the dorsal and ventral hippocampus

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2015 Jun;40(7):1590-9. doi: 10.1038/npp.2015.19. Epub 2015 Jan 19.


Variations in early life maternal care modulate hippocampal development to program distinct emotional-cognitive phenotypes that persist into adulthood. Adult rat offspring that received low compared with high levels of maternal licking and grooming (low LG offspring) in early postnatal life show reduced long term potentiation (LTP) and impaired hippocampal-dependent memory, suggesting a 'detrimental' maternal effect on neural development. However, these studies focused uniquely on the dorsal hippocampus. Emerging evidence suggests a distinct role of the ventral hippocampus in mediating aggression, anxiety, and fear-memory formation, which are enhanced in low LG offspring. We report that variations in maternal care in the rat associate with opposing effects on hippocampal function in the dorsal and ventral hippocampus. Reduced pup licking associated with suppressed LTP formation in the dorsal hippocampus, but enhanced ventral hippocampal LTP. Ventral hippocampal neurons in low LG offspring fired action potentials at lower threshold voltages that were of larger amplitude and faster rise rate in comparison with those in high LG offspring. Furthermore, recordings of excitatory postsynaptic potential-to-spike coupling (E-S coupling) revealed an increase in excitability of ventral hippocampal CA1 neurons in low LG offspring. These effects do not associate with changes in miniature excitatory postsynaptic currents or paired-pulse facilitation, suggesting a specific effect of maternal care on intrinsic excitability. These findings suggest region-specific influences of maternal care in shaping neural development and synaptic plasticity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Biophysical Phenomena / drug effects
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Female
  • GABA Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / physiology
  • Hippocampus / cytology*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Long-Term Potentiation / drug effects
  • Long-Term Potentiation / physiology*
  • Male
  • Maternal Behavior*
  • NAV1.2 Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel / genetics
  • NAV1.2 Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel / metabolism
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • alpha-Amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic Acid / pharmacology


  • GABA Antagonists
  • NAV1.2 Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel
  • Scn2A protein, rat
  • alpha-Amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic Acid