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Keywords:

  • GABAA receptor;
  • benzodiazepine receptor;
  • benzodiazepine sensitivity;
  • maternal care;
  • rat;
  • fear/anxiety;
  • novelty-induced suppression of appetitive behavior

Abstract: Variations in maternal care over the first week of life alter the expression of genes encoding for various subunits of the GABAA/benzodiazepine (BZ) receptor in the amygdala, a brain region associated with fear behavior. Increased maternal licking/grooming and arched-back nursing are associated with decreased fearfulness and enhanced expression of the subunits that confer BZ sensitivity. In these studies we found that the offspring of high licking/grooming-arched-back nursing mothers also showed increased behavioral sensitivity to acute BZ treatment, suggesting a functional relation between the effect on gene expression and fear behavior.