Get access

Preliminary Evidence of Altered Sensitivity to Benzodiazepines as a Function of Maternal Care in the Rat


Address for correspondence: Michael J. Meaney, Developmental Neuroendocrinology Laboratory, Douglas Hospital Research Centre, 6875 boulevard La Salle Montreal, Quebec H4H-1R3, Canada. Voice: +1-514-761-6131; fax: +1-515-762-3034.


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.