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Maternal Programming of Individual Differences in Defensive Responses in the Rat

Authors

  • TIE-YUAN ZHANG,

    Corresponding author
    1. McGill Program for the Study of Behavior, Genes and Environment, Douglas Hospital Research Centre, Departments of Psychiatry and Neurology & Neurosurgery, McGill University, Montreal (Quebec), Canada
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  • CARINE PARENT,

    1. McGill Program for the Study of Behavior, Genes and Environment, Douglas Hospital Research Centre, Departments of Psychiatry and Neurology & Neurosurgery, McGill University, Montreal (Quebec), Canada
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  • IAN WEAVER,

    1. McGill Program for the Study of Behavior, Genes and Environment, Douglas Hospital Research Centre, Departments of Psychiatry and Neurology & Neurosurgery, McGill University, Montreal (Quebec), Canada
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  • MICHAEL J. MEANEY

    1. McGill Program for the Study of Behavior, Genes and Environment, Douglas Hospital Research Centre, Departments of Psychiatry and Neurology & Neurosurgery, McGill University, Montreal (Quebec), Canada
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Address for correspondence: Michael J Meaney, Douglas Hospital Research Centre, 6875 boul. LaSalle, Montréal (Québec), Canada H4H 1R3. Voice: 514-761-6131 × 3938; fax: 514-762-3034. michael.meaney@mcgill.ca

Abstract

Abstract: This paper describes the results of a series of studies showing that variations in mother-pup interactions program the development of individual differences in behavioral and endocrine stress responses in the rat. These effects are associated with altered expression of genes in brain regions, such as the amygdala, hippocampus, and hypothalamus, that regulate the expression of stress responses. Studies from evolutionary biology suggest that such “maternal effects” are common and often associated with variations in the quality of the maternal environment. Together these findings suggest an epigenetic process whereby the experience of the mother alters the nature of the parent-offspring interactions and thus the phenotype of the offspring.

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