Presence of Mother Reduces Early-Life Social Stress: Linking the Alteration in Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis and Serotonergic System

Dev Neurosci. 2019;41(3-4):212-222. doi: 10.1159/000504508. Epub 2019 Dec 20.


In this study, we examined whether the presence of mother suppresses early-life stressful social experience (SSE)-induced anxiety-like behavior and impairment of short-term memory later in life. On postnatal day (PND)-5, mothers with pups were grouped as follows: (i) control; (ii) maternal separation (MS); (iii) pups with mother experience the presence of a stranger (M+P-ST); and (iv) maternal separated pups experience the presence of a stranger (MSP-ST). Individuals were subjected to light-dark box and spontaneous alternation from PND-29 to 32. We observed that the MSP-ST group exhibits anxiety-like behavior and impairment in short-term memory. Further, SSE significantly elevated the adrenocorticotropic hormone, corticosterone and expression of glucocorticoid receptor (GR) in MSP-ST pups. Similarly, serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine; 5-HT), dopamine, noradrenaline and expression of serotonin transporter levels were significantly elevated in MSP-ST pups. These observations suggest that during early postnatal days, the pups may recognize strangers by the sense of smell, and the presence of mother reduces the SSE-induced stress.

Keywords: Anxiety-like behavior; Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis; Neurotransmitters; Short-term memory; Stressful social experience.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Anxiety / physiopathology*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Corticosterone / metabolism
  • Female
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Maternal Deprivation
  • Mothers / psychology
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / physiopathology*
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Serotonin / metabolism
  • Stress, Psychological / metabolism


  • Serotonin
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone
  • Corticosterone