Effects of septal-forebrain lesions on maternal aggression and maternal care

Behav Neural Biol. 1986 Jan;45(1):17-30. doi: 10.1016/s0163-1047(86)80002-4.


Septal-forebrain lesions significantly increased the defensive reactions of lactating Long-Evans rats (n = 13) relative to nonlesioned control females. The lesions greatly enhanced defensive behaviors on a number of standard tests (e.g., responsiveness to humans and anesthetized conspecifics) while abolishing aggression toward intruding male conspecifics. The lesions also produced a striking disruption in maternal behavior as evidenced by absence of nest building, reduced litter weights, failure to retrieve, lick, or nurse pups, and increased cannibalization. While these results cannot be interpreted as indicating that maternal aggression is equivalent to offense, they are congruent with such a view. Certainly they are not supportive of a view that maternal aggression is primarily defensive. The lesion-induced abolition of maternal attack may have resulted from an inhibition of offensive tendencies by heightened defensiveness and/or reduced pup stimulation. There was no evidence that the lesion-induced impairment in maternal behavior resulted from a failure to sequence the individual behavioral acts comprising maternal behavior. Rather, all features of maternal care seemed to be greatly attenuated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • Diencephalon / physiology*
  • Female
  • Handling, Psychological
  • Maternal Behavior*
  • Nesting Behavior / physiology
  • Rats
  • Septum Pellucidum / physiology*
  • Telencephalon / physiology*
  • Vibrissae / physiology