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Motherhood Changes Brain Function

JERUSALEM, Oct. 25 (UPI) — Motherhood is associated with a host of new behaviors that are driven, at least in part, by alterations in brain function, researchers in Israel say.

Study leader Dr. Adi Mizrahi of Hebrew University in Jerusalem and his postdoctoral colleague Dr. Lior Cohen exposed three groups of mice — mice that had experienced interaction with their pups, lactating mother mice and mice that had not given birth — to pup odors, and then monitored both spontaneous and sound-evoked activity of neurons in the auditory cortex.

The primary auditory cortex is known as a site that undergoes functional changes in response to sensory input from the environment, the researchers said.

The odors triggered dramatic changes in auditory processing only in the females that had interacted with pups, while the lactating mothers were the most sensitive to pup sounds.

The study, published in the journal Neuron, said olfactory, or the sense of smell and auditory integration, appeared in lactating mothers shortly after they had given birth and had a particularly strong effect on the detection of pup distress calls.

“We have shown that motherhood is associated with a rapid and robust appearance of olfactory-auditory integration in the primary auditory cortex occurring along with stimulus-specific adaptation to pup distress calls,” Mizrahi said in a statement. “These processes help to explain how changes in neocortical networks facilitate efficient detection of pups by their caring mothers.”

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