The mission ofthe NICHD is to ensure that every person is born healthy and wanted, that women suffer no harmful effects from reproductive processes, and that ail children have the chance to achieve their full potential for healthy and productive lives, free from disease or disability, and to ensure the health, productivity, independence, and well-being of all people through optimal rehabilitation. Postpartum anxiety and depression-associated disorders can have negative effects on the health of both mother and offspring through effects on matemal behavior, and little is known about the etiology of these disorders. Although chronic stress is a significant risk factor for depression, it is unknown how chronic stress during lactation affects maternal behavior. Recent molecular studies indicate that the neurohormones arginine vasopressin (AVP), oxytocin (OXT), and corticosteroid releasing hormone (CRH) may be involved in the modulation of maternal behavior in lactating rats. It is hypothesized that the central AVP system may be a potential target for the treatment of postpartum behavioral disorders, as central manipulations of AVP alter behavior. The overall objective of the current protocol is to investigate the role of AVP in postpartum maternal behavior and aggression, and the effects of social stress on this system.
The specific aims ofthe current proposal are to characterize the roles of central AVP, OXT, and CRH in the control of maternal behavior and maternal aggression, investigate the effects of chronic social stressors on these behaviors and central AVP, and investigate a potential AVP-mediated mechanism forthe effects of chronic social stress on maternal behavior.
These aims will be pursued using behavioral, endocrine, physiological and molecular methods to quantify the effects of chronic social stressors, molecular and imaging (fMRI) techniques to identify the neural regions implicated in the acute and chronic control of maternal behavior, and stereotaxic surgical techniques to manipulate central AVP activity. The overal goal is to gain valuable training in behavioral) neuroscience techniques and study the neuropeptidergic control of behavior. The long term career goal is to develop new targets and treatments for behavioral disorders of mothers.

Public Health Relevance

Although it is clear that the behavior of the mother affects the behavior and health of her children, very few studies have been directed at determining the causes of postpartum behavioral disorders. This application will help to ensure the health of mothers and their children by investigating potential mechanisms for the control of maternal behavior and causes for postpartum behavioral disorders.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Research Transition Award (R00)
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Special Emphasis Panel (NSS)
Program Officer
Freund, Lisa S
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Tufts University
Veterinary Sciences
Schools of Veterinary Medicine
United States
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Nephew, Benjamin C; Febo, Marcelo; Huang, Wei et al. (2018) Early life social stress and resting state functional connectivity in postpartum rat anterior cingulate circuits. J Affect Disord 229:213-223
Kroll-Desrosiers, Aimee R; Nephew, Benjamin C; Babb, Jessica A et al. (2017) Association of peripartum synthetic oxytocin administration and depressive and anxiety disorders within the first postpartum year. Depress Anxiety 34:137-146
Nephew, Benjamin C; Huang, Wei; Poirier, Guillaume L et al. (2017) Altered neural connectivity in adult female rats exposed to early life social stress. Behav Brain Res 316:225-233
Pittet, Florent; Babb, Jessica A; Carini, Lindsay et al. (2017) Chronic social instability in adult female rats alters social behavior, maternal aggression and offspring development. Dev Psychobiol 59:291-302
Babb, Jessica A; Deligiannidis, Kristina M; Murgatroyd, Christopher A et al. (2015) Peripartum depression and anxiety as an integrative cross domain target for psychiatric preventative measures. Behav Brain Res 276:32-44
Murgatroyd, Christopher A; Taliefar, Mohammad; Bradburn, Steven et al. (2015) Social stress during lactation, depressed maternal care, and neuropeptidergic gene expression. Behav Pharmacol 26:642-53
Murgatroyd, Christopher A; Peña, Catherine J; Podda, Giovanni et al. (2015) Early life social stress induced changes in depression and anxiety associated neural pathways which are correlated with impaired maternal care. Neuropeptides 52:103-11
Babb, Jessica A; Carini, Lindsay M; Spears, Stella L et al. (2014) Transgenerational effects of social stress on social behavior, corticosterone, oxytocin, and prolactin in rats. Horm Behav 65:386-93
Carini, Lindsay M; Nephew, Benjamin C (2013) Effects of early life social stress on endocrinology, maternal behavior, and lactation in rats. Horm Behav 64:634-41
Carini, Lindsay M; Murgatroyd, Christopher A; Nephew, Benjamin C (2013) Using chronic social stress to model postpartum depression in lactating rodents. J Vis Exp :e50324

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