The same neural pathways promote maternal and paternal behaviors in voles

The same neural pathways promote maternal and paternal behaviors in voles
Oxytocin neurons in the hypothalamus. Credit: He et al., JNeurosci 2021

Like female voles, connections between oxytocin neurons in the hypothalamus and dopamine neurons in reward areas drive parental behaviors in male voles, according to new research published in JNeurosci.

Motherhood receives most of the attention in the research world, yet in 5% of mammals—including humans—fathers provide care, too. The "" oxytocin plays a role in paternal care, but the exact neural pathways underlying the behavior were not known.

He et al. measured the neural activity of vole fathers while they interacted with their offspring. Oxytocin neurons connecting the hypothalamus to a reward area fired when the fathers cared for their offspring. Stimulating the oxytocin neurons increased paternal behaviors, while inhibiting them reduced paternal behaviors. Inhibiting the pathway led to decreased dopamine release in the reward area when the fathers cared for their pups.

These pathways are the same ones involved in promoting maternal behavior in female animals.

Understanding the pathways driving could lead to interventions for paternal postpartum depression or paternal abuse.


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More information: Paraventricular Nucleus Oxytocin Sub-Systems Promote Active Paternal Behaviors in Mandarin Voles, JNeurosci (2021). DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2864-20.2021
Journal information: Journal of Neuroscience

Citation: The same neural pathways promote maternal and paternal behaviors in voles (2021, July 5) retrieved 24 September 2021 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-07-neural-pathways-maternal-paternal-behaviors.html
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