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Negligent Mice

May 27, 2008

Mice that neglect their offspring have a neuro-chemical disruption in their brains.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
Of mice and motherhood…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Why are some parents caring and others neglectful? New evidence suggests that attentive parenting is influenced by neuro-chemicals in the brain’s reward center. At the University of Wisconsin, Madison, neurobiologist Stephen Gammie and his colleagues studied a strain of mice of which one in five females chronically neglects her offspring. The researchers compared the brains of the neglectful mice to those of more attentive mothers shortly after they gave birth.

STEPHEN GAMMIE (University of Wisconsin, Madison):
Brain pathways involved in parental care are disrupted. We see what appears to be a hyper secretion of dopamine in these mothers.

HIRSHON:
But when nurturing mice fostered newborns from neglectful mothers, they too became negligent, suggesting that cues from the pups themselves also influence parenting. Gammie says these mice could expand our understanding of maternal neglect in humans as well. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.