Brain neurotransmitters in an animal model with postpartum depressive-like behavior

Behav Brain Res. 2017 May 30;326:307-321. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2017.01.013. Epub 2017 Mar 12.


Post-Partum Depression (PPD) occurs in 15% of pregnancies and its patho-physiology is not known. We studied female BALB/c ("depressive") and C57BL/6 (control) mice as a model for PPD and assessed their behavior and correlates with brain neurotransmitters (NTs) - norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin and intermediates, during the pre-pregnancy (PREP), pregnancy (PREG) and post-partum (PP) periods. Depressive-like behavior was evaluated by the Open Field (OFT), Tail Suspension (TST) and Forced Swim (FST) tests. Neurotransmitters (NTs) were determined in the striatum (care-giving), hippocampus (cognitive function) and hypothalamus (maternal care & eating behavior). In the BALB/c mice, while their performance in all behavioral tests was significantly reduced during pregnancy and P-P indicative of the development of depressive-like responses, no changes were observed in the C57BL/6 mice. Changes in NTs in BALB/C were as follows: PREP, all NTs in the three brain areas were decreased, although an increase in dopamine release was observed in the hippocampus. PREG: No changes were observed in the NTs except for a decrease in 5-HT in the striatum. P-P: striatum, low 5-HT, NE and dopamine; Hippocampus: low 5-HT, NE and high Dopamine; hypothalamus: all NTs increased, especially NE. Following pregnancy and delivery, the BALB/c mice developed depressive-like behavior associated with a significant decrease in 5-HT, dopamine and NE in the striatum and 5-HT and NE in the hippocampus. Dopamine increased in the latter together with a significant increase in all NTs in the hypothalamus. These findings suggest that the development of PPD may be associated with NT changes. Normalization of these alterations may have a role in the treatment of PPD.

Keywords: Forced swim test; Maternal behavior; Neurotransmitters (NT); Open field test; Post-partum depression (PPD); Tail suspension test.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Depression, Postpartum / metabolism*
  • Depression, Postpartum / physiopathology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / metabolism*
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism*
  • Maternal Behavior / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neostriatum / metabolism*
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism*
  • Pregnancy / metabolism
  • Pregnancy / physiology*


  • Neurotransmitter Agents