Regina Sullivan

Neuroscience Symposium
Lohmann Group

The Neuroscience Symposia are organized weekly by the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience. The presentations are given by researchers from the institute or by guest speakers. The title and content of the symposium is usually made known in the week prior to the presentation.

The symposium will be held online. A Zoom link will be provided by mail.

4 pm – Regulation of the infant brain and behavior: attachment, safety and threat.

We have known for many decades that the quality of care an infant receives from parents has enduring effects on brain circuits controlling emotion and cognition. While mechanisms remain elusive, it is now very clear that these enduring effects are correlated with ubiquitous changes in gene regulation, epigenetics, myriad neurotransmitters/hormone and brain anatomy.

Less is known about the immediate effects of the caregiver on physiology, although social buffering of the offspring’s stress response has been documented in humans and animal models as an important mediator to infant behavior. However, it is unclear how social buffering alters pups’ brain function and behavior or how the caregiver might alter neurobehavioral functioning of the offspring in non-stress situations. Here we use rodent mother-infant interactions to assess maternal influence over pups’ immediate brain activity and its behavioral consequences. First, we present data illustrating how mother is social buffering (form of maternal regulation) of pups’ stress response can alter the offspring’s brain and learning about trauma.

Second, we show how pups’ social referencing of the mother’s fear response overrides social buffering to permit pup amygdala-dependent fear learning. Third, we show how maternal control over the pup’s brain is not dependent upon manipulation of pups’ stress response.

For all examples, maternal regulation of the offspring’s brain decreases as pups approach independence and is compromised by adverse/harsh rearing by the mother. Together, these results suggest that maternal regulation of the offspring’s brain has profound effects on the immediate processing of sensory information and behavioral expression.