5 years ago

Juvenile social isolation affects maternal care in rats: involvement of allopregnanolone

Daniela Corda, Maria Giuseppina Pisu, Giorgia Boero, Mariangela Serra, Patrizia Porcu, Mauro Congiu, Francesca Biggio, Alessandra Concas, Anna Garau



Social isolation of rats immediately after weaning is thought to represent an animal model of anxiety-like disorders. Socially isolated virgin females showed a significant decrease in allopregnanolone levels, associated with increased anxiety-related behavior compared with group-housed rats.


The present study investigates whether post-weaning social isolation affects maternal behavior and assesses neuroactive steroid levels in adult female rats during pregnancy and postpartum.


Socially isolated dams displayed a reduction in the frequency of arched back nursing (ABN) behavior compared to group-housed dams. In addition, both total and active nursing were lower in socially isolated dams compared to group-housed dams. Compared to virgin females, pregnancy increases allopregnanolone levels in group-housed as well as isolated dams and such increase was greater in the latter group. Compared to pregnancy levels, allopregnanolone levels decreased after delivery and this decrease was more pronounced in isolated than group-housed dams. Moreover, the fluctuations in plasma corticosterone levels that occur in late pregnancy and during lactation follow a different pattern in socially isolated vs. group-housed rats.


The present results show that social isolation in female rats decreases maternal behavior; this effect is associated with lower allopregnanolone concentrations at postpartum, which may account, at least in part, for the poor maternal care observed in socially isolated dams. In support of this conclusion is the finding that finasteride-treated dams, which display a decrease in plasma allopregnanolone levels, also showed a marked reduction in maternal care, suggesting that allopregnanolone may contribute to the quality of maternal care.

Publisher URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00213-017-4661-2

DOI: 10.1007/s00213-017-4661-2

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