Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Behavioral Neuroscience 122:2 (2008), pp. 368-376; doi: 10.1037/0735-7044.122.2.368


Copyright © 2008 American Psychological Association. Used by permission.


Female rats show enhanced maternal responsiveness toward their young if they have had maternal experiences before. This kind of maternal experience-based memory is critically dependent on the mesolimbic dopamine (DA) system, especially the nucleus accumbens (NA) shell. However, the relative contributions of the two main DA receptor systems (D1 and D2) within the shell have not been delineated. This study investigates the roles of dopamine D1 and D2 receptors in maternal memory by infusing a selective D1 antagonist, SCH-23390; a selective D2 antagonist, sulpiride; or a combination D1/D2 antagonist, cis-Z-flupenthixol, into the NA shell of postpartum female rats. Sulpiride-infused rats showed a significantly longer latency to exhibit full maternal behavior following a 10-day pup isolation period in comparison to the controls that received a vehicle. Cis-Z-flupenthixol disrupted maternal memory to a greater extent, as rats receiving this showed the longest latencies to express maternal behavior. SCH-23390 infusions had only marginal effects. These findings suggest that both the D1 and the D2 receptor subtypes play a role in the consolidation of maternal memory and they might do so by mediating the motivational salience of pup stimulation.