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Neurobiology of maternal regulation of infant fear: the role of mesolimbic dopamine and its disruption by maltreatment
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology. New York University School of Medicine, USA; Nathan Kline Institute, USA.
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Number of Authors: 152019 (English)In: Neuropsychopharmacology, ISSN 0893-133X, E-ISSN 1740-634X, Vol. 44, no 7, p. 1247-1257Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Child development research highlights caregiver regulation of infant physiology and behavior as a key feature of early life attachment, although mechanisms for maternal control of infant neural circuits remain elusive. Here we explored the neurobiology of maternal regulation of infant fear using neural network and molecular levels of analysis in a rodent model. Previous research has shown maternal suppression of amygdala-dependent fear learning during a sensitive period. Here we characterize changes in neural networks engaged during maternal regulation and the transition to infant self-regulation. Metabolic mapping of 2deoxyglucose uptake during odor-shock conditioning in postnatal day (PN) 14 rat pups showed that maternal presence blocked fear learning, disengaged mesolimbic circuitry, basolateral amygdala (BLA), and plasticity-related AMPA receptor subunit trafficking. At PN18, when maternal presence only socially buffers threat learning (similar to social modulation in adults), maternal presence failed to disengage the mesolimbic dopaminergic system, and failed to disengage both the BLA and plasticity-related AMPA receptor subunit trafficking. Further, maternal presence failed to block threat learning at PN14 pups following abuse, and mesolimbic dopamine engagement and AMPA were not significantly altered by maternal presence-analogous to compromised maternal regulation of children in abusive relationships. Our results highlight three key features of maternal regulation: (1) maternal presence blocks fear learning and amygdala plasticity through age-dependent suppression of amygdala AMPA receptor subunit trafficking, (2) maternal presence suppresses engagement of brain regions within the mesolimbic dopamine circuit, and (3) early-life abuse compromises network and molecular biomarkers of maternal regulation, suggesting reduced social scaffolding of the brain.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019. Vol. 44, no 7, p. 1247-1257
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Pharmacology and Toxicology Neurosciences Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)
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URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-170005DOI: 10.1038/s41386-019-0340-9ISI: 000467764100010PubMedID: 30758321OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-170005DiVA, id: diva2:1330928
Available from: 2019-06-26 Created: 2019-06-26 Last updated: 2019-06-26Bibliographically approved

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