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Keywords:

  • biparental care;
  • foraging;
  • hippocampus;
  • NMDA receptors;
  • object recognition

Abstract

Maternal care influences cognitive function in humans, primates and rodents; however, little is known about the effect of biparental care. Environmental factors such as resource availability play an important role in modulating parental investment strategies with subsequent effects on the offspring. Thus, we examined the interaction between foraging demand and biparental care on hippocampal development and novel object recognition in the monogamous, biparental California mouse. We characterized biparental behavior for 15 days in families exposed to either control (ad libitum feeding) or a high-foraging demand across the weaning period. Adult male offspring were then tested in the open field, and for novel object and place recognition, as well as for hippocampal synaptic density and the expression of genes encoding for subunits of the N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor complex, and the postsynaptic density (PSD)-95 scaffolding protein. Under high-foraging demand, the mothers' body weight was decreased at weaning and fathers spent significantly less time in contact with pups. Offspring reared under high-foraging demand weighed less at weaning and, as adults, were more fearful in the open field and showed profound deficits in both novel object and place recognition. While synaptic density and NR1 mRNA expression were unaffected, offspring reared under high-foraging demand showed increased NR2A and decreased NR2B mRNA expression. Further, PSD-95 protein expression was decreased in mice reared under high-foraging demand. Together, the results suggest that resource availability affects biparental investment strategies, with subsequent effects on hippocampal development and novel object recognition in the offspring.