Measuring Variations in Maternal Behavior: Relevance for Studies of Mood and Anxiety
The assessment of variations in maternal behavior in laboratory rodents is challenging yet may provide an essential tool for understanding the mechanisms linking early life experiences to individual differences in stress responsivity and behavioral indices of depression and anxiety. In this chapter, the methodology for characterizing the quality and quantity of mother–pup interactions in mice as well as the strategy for analyzing this observational data is described in detail. Successful use of this approach is dependent on careful consideration of the wide variety of environmental variables that may influence maternal behaviors, such as pup licking/grooming, which have been demonstrated to be associated with a wide range of behavioral phenotypes in offspring. Maternal behavior can moderate the effect of genetic and neurobiological manipulations that are being developed in mice to study the etiology of psychopathology. The protocol described in this chapter can be applied to these studies to examine the interplay between genes and the environment.
Key wordsMaternal behavior Licking/grooming Home-cage Time-sampling Postnatal
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