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Limited bedding and nesting induces maternal behavior resembling both hypervigilance and abuse

“… In the current study, we leverage a novel continuous video monitoring setup to unobtrusively observe and subsequently analyze maternal behaviors. Through this more in depth analysis, we discovered that LBN dams spent more time than control dams on their nest, returned to their nest more frequently than control dams, and showed intact maternal care. Importantly, a subset of LBN dams (~40%) engaged in abusive-like kicking, a behavioral pattern not previously identified in this paradigm. Exposure to ELA and abusive-like kicking were associated with differences in risky-taking like behavior in adulthood. The LBN model of ELA may drive a more complex constellation of effects on maternal behavior, driving a pattern of increased dam-pup interactions and increased abuse-like kicking behavior, with unique consequences for pup outcomes.

Resource Scarcity But Not Maternal Separation Provokes Unpredictable Maternal Care Sequences in Mice and Both Upregulate Crh-Associated Gene Expression in the Amygdala

“… Here, we tested the hypothesis that changes in maternal behavior in mice would be contingent on the type of ELA experienced, directly comparing predictability of care in the limited bedding and nesting (LBN) and maternal separation (MS) paradigms. We then tested whether the predictability of the ELA environment altered the expression of corticotropin-releasing hormone (Crh), a sexually-dimorphic neuropeptide that regulates threat-related learning, in the amygdala of male and female mice. The LBN manipulation reliably increased the entropy of maternal care, a measure that indicates lower predictability between sequences of dam behavior. LBN and MS rearing similarly increased the frequency of nest sorties and licking of pups but had mixed effects on other aspects of dam-, pup-, and nest- related behaviors. Increased expression of Crh-related genes was observed in pups that experienced ELA, with gene expression measures showing a significant interaction with sex and type of ELA manipulation. Specifically, MS was associated with increased expression of Crh-related genes in males, but not females, and LBN primarily increased expression of these genes in females, but not males. The present study provides evidence for predictability as a distinguishing feature of models of ELA and demonstrates robust consequences of these differing experience on sex-differences in gene expression critically associated with stress responding and sex differences in risk for pathology.”