Activation of hypothalamic oxytocin neurons following tactile stimuli in rats.

Shota OkabeMasahide YoshidaYuki TakayanagiTatsushi Onaka

Gentle touching or stroking has anxiolytic actions and contributes to the establishment of an intimate relationship between individuals. Oxytocin administration also has anxiolytic actions and facilitates social behaviors. In this study, we examined effects of stroking stimuli on activation of oxytocin neurons and emission of 50-kHz ultrasonic vocalizations, an index of positive emotion, in rats. The number of oxytocin neurons expressing Fos protein was increased in the hypothalamus, especially in the dorsal zone of the medial parvicellular part of the paraventricular nucleus. The number of 50-kHz ultrasonic vocalizations was also increased. These findings suggest that pleasant sensory stimuli activate hypothalamic oxytocin neurons. Continue Reading →

Transport Response is a filial-specific behavioral response to maternal carrying in C57BL/6 mice.

Yoshida SEsposito GOhnishi RTsuneoka YOkabe SKikusui TKato TKuroda KO.

A mother carries her young in many altricial mammals, such as cats, lions, rats and mice. During maternal carrying, the transported young assume a compact posture. We have recently shown that, in both humans and mice, the carried infants immediately calmed down and showed reductions in heart rate, distress vocalizations, and voluntary movement. The loss of the calming response in mouse pups hindered maternal retrieval efficacy. These findings suggested that the infant calming response functioned to reduce the maternal burden of carrying and was therefore conserved in a variety of mammalian species. However, it remains unclear how and when each component of this calming response develops and whether it is a filial-specific behavior.

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Pup odor and ultrasonic vocalizations synergistically stimulate maternal attention in mice.

Okabe SNagasawa MKihara TKato MHarada TKoshida NMogi KKikusui T.

Pup ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs), which are emitted by hypothermic pups, and pup odor are thought to be triggers of maternal behavior in mice. We investigated whether pup odor stimulated maternal responses to pup USVs in mother C57BL/6 mice. Two-choice tests were conducted by introducing mothers into a test cage in which a tube was attached on each long wall, and the duration spent in each tube was compared. Pup USVs were reproduced by an ultrasonic speaker at the tube end. In some cases, cotton with pup odor was also presented at the end of the tube. Continue Reading →

Testosterone inhibits facilitating effects of parenting experience on parental behavior and the oxytocin neural system in mice.

Okabe S, Kitano K, Nagasawa M, Mogi K, Kikusui T.

Parental behavior in mammals is facilitated by sensory experiences from infant, and by endocrine hormones. However, the interactions between these factors in the parental behavior of nonreproductive adults are not understood. We examined the interactive effects of gonadal hormones and the experience of repeated pup exposure on parental behavior in sexually naive mice. We also compared oxytocin (OT) expression levels in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus to behavioral outcomes. Clear sex differences were observed in retrieving tests; initial retrieving latency was shorter in females than in males, and 5-time pup exposure shortened retrieving latency in females only. Continue Reading →

Importance of mother-infant communication for social bond formation in mammals.

Okabe SNagasawa MMogi KKikusui T.v

Mother-infant bonding is a universal relationship of all mammalian species. Here, we describe the role of reciprocal communication between mother and infant in the formation of bonding for several mammalian species. Mother-infant bond formation is reinforced by various social cues or stimuli, including communicative signals, such as odor and vocalizations, or tactile stimuli. The mother also develops cross-modal sensory recognition of the infant, during bond formation. Many studies have indicated that the oxytocin neural system plays a pivotal role in bond formation by the mother; however, the underlying neural mechanisms for infants have not yet been clarified. The comparative understanding of cognitive functions of mother and infants may help us understand the biological significance of mother-infant communication in mammalian species.

© 2012 The Authors. Animal Science Journal © 2012 Japanese Society of Animal Science.


Oxytocin and mutual communication in mother-infant bonding.

Nagasawa MOkabe SMogi KKikusui T

Mother-infant bonding is universal to all mammalian species. In this review, we describe the manner in which reciprocal communication between the mother and infant leads to mother-infant bonding in rodents. In rats and mice, mother-infant bond formation is reinforced by various social stimuli, such as tactile stimuli and ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs) from the pups to the mother, and feeding and tactile stimulation from the mother to the pups. Some evidence suggests that mother and infant can develop a cross-modal sensory recognition of their counterpart during this bonding process. Neurochemically, oxytocin in the neural system plays a pivotal role in each side of the mother-infant bonding process, although the mechanisms underlying bond formation in the brains of infants has not yet been clarified. Impairment of mother-infant bonding, that is, deprivation of social stimuli from the mother, strongly influences offspring sociality, including maternal behavior toward their own offspring in their adulthood, implying a “non-genomic transmission of maternal environment,” even in rodents. The comparative understanding of cognitive functions between mother and infants, and the biological mechanisms involved in mother-infant bonding may help us understand psychiatric disorders associated with mother-infant relationships.

A role for strain differences in waveforms of ultrasonic vocalizations during male-female interaction.

Sugimoto HOkabe SKato MKoshida NShiroishi TMogi KKikusui TKoide T.

Male mice emit ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs) towards females during male-female interaction. It has been reported that USVs of adult male mice have the capability of attracting females. Although the waveform pattern of USVs is affected by genetic background, differences among strains with respect to USV and the effects of these differences on courtship behavior have not been analyzed fully. We analyzed USV patterns, as well as actual social behavior during USV recording, in 13 inbred mouse strains, which included laboratory and wild-derived strains. Significant effects of strain were observed for the frequency of USV emission, duration, and frequency of the waveform category. Continue Reading →

The effects of social experience and gonadal hormones on retrieving behavior of mice and their responses to pup ultrasonic vocalizations.

Okabe SNagasawa MKihara TKato MHarada TKoshida NMogi KKikusui T

Pup ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs) are emitted from maternally separated pups and are thought to be a trigger for eliciting maternal behavior in mice. We investigated the effects of social experience and gonadectomy on the retrieving behavior of mice and their responses to pup USVs produced by a nanocrystalline silicon thermo-acoustic emitter. In each experiment, virgin, gonadectomized, sham-operated, sexually experienced, and parenting mice of both sexes were used, and the effects of these manipulations were compared in each sex. The retrieving behavior of both sexes increased with social experience or gonadectomy. In particular, mothers showed the highest retrieving activity among female groups, while castrated male mice showed the highest retrieving activity among male groups. Continue Reading →