“Maternal behavior itself can trigger the development of new neurons in the maternal brain independent of whether the female was pregnant or has nursed, according to a study released by researchers at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. These findings performed in adult, virgin rats were published in Brain Research Bulletin. In the study, virgin, or nulliparous, rats were exposed to foster pups each day until they began to exhibit maternal behavior, including crouching over the young, grouping them, or retrieving them back to the nest. Data from the study showed that the nulliparous rats exposed to pups have increased numbers of new neurons. Previous research has found that exposure to young can stimulate maternal behavior not only in rats, but also mice, hamsters, monkeys, and even humans. Increased creation of new neurons, or neurogenesis, has also been shown during pregnancy and lactation in rodents and associated with maternal behavior, but studies analyzing neurogenesis in nulliparous animals exhibiting maternal behavior had not been done.”
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