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article imageInsight into how a mother mouse hears her pup calling

By Tim Sandle     Apr 26, 2015 in Science
New York - The hormone oxytocin activates neurons that trigger female mice to respond to the distress calls of lost pups. This has come from a new research study.
The research revealed that the hormone oxytocin alters the activity of neurons in the left auditory cortex of a mouse mother’s brain. This makes her more in tune with the distress cries of lost pups.
The study answers an interesting observation with mice. Biologists have recorded the fact that mouse mothers often move from nest to nest to avoid predators, carrying their offspring with them. The babies that fall off during the move cry out, prompting the mothers to backtrack and retrieve their lost pups. While mother mice respond to the cries by picking up the pups, even those that are not their own, virgin females generally ignore the ultrasonic distress calls.
To better understand the brain change that makes mothers more responsive to pups’ cries, The Guardian reports that researchers injected oxytocin into the sound-processing auditory cortex of virgin females. The presence of the hormone caused the virgin females to retrieve the pups. A single dose of oxytocin was enough to produce the effect.
When discussing the findings, the researchers think that oxytocin appears to coordinate the neuronal response and may be involved in learning and memory formation related to the sound of the distress calls.
The study was performed at the New York University (NYU). The research has been published in the science journal Nature. The paper is titled "Oxytocin enables maternal behaviour by balancing cortical inhibition."
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