Impact of Maternal Separation on Dopamine System and its Association with Parkinson's Disease

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As a type of stress, maternal separation (MS) has been one of the most widely used models in neuropsychiatric research. An increasing number of studies has found that MS not only affects the function of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis and hippocampal 5-hydroxytryptamine system, but also causes dysfunction of the central dopamine (DA) system and increases the susceptibility of dopaminergic neurons to pathogenic factors of Parkinson's disease (PD), for instance, 6-hydroxydopamine, thus impairing motor function. We reviewed the impact of MS on the DA system and its correlation with PD and found the following: (1) discrepant effects of MS on the DA system have been reported; (2) MS is a good model to study the impact of stress on the occurrence and development of PD, however, unified modeling criteria of MS are required; (3) correlation between MS and PD may involve the impact of MS on the DA system, which however is not the only connection; (4) intervening measures can block pathways between MS and PD, which provides reference for the prevention of PD in specific populations such as left-behind children.

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Fig. 1





Dopaminergic neurons


Dopamine transporter


Early life stress


Maternal separation


Parkinson's disease




Tyrosine hydroxylase


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The authors thank all their past and present team members and collaborators who have contributed to the data discussed in the review. We would like to express our gratitude to Professor Chun-feng Liu of Soochow University for his cordial support, valuable information, and guidance, which helped us in completing this review.


This study was supported by the Science Technology Development and Guidance Foundation of Suzhou (SYSD2017089) and Postgraduate Research & Practice Innovation Program of Jiangsu Province.

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Correspondence to Chao Ren or Fen Wang.

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He, K., Zhang, Y., Wei, S. et al. Impact of Maternal Separation on Dopamine System and its Association with Parkinson's Disease. Neuromol Med (2020) doi:10.1007/s12017-019-08587-x

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  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Maternal separation
  • Stress
  • Dopamine
  • Left-behind children