Honors Program


Date of this Version

Spring 2019

Document Type



Murman, J. 2019. Neural Basis of Gestational Stress Effect on Maternal Behavior in Rats. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Copyright Jordan Murman 2019.


Postpartum depression affects nearly 20% of women and can have long term detrimental effects on both mothers and offspring. Exposure to perinatal stress is a major risk factor for postpartum mental disorders like depression, anxiety, and psychosis. However, postpartum depression is significantly neurologically different from metal disorders outside this period, thus pointing to influences during the pregnancy, such as infants, which few studies have examined. In this study we examined the influences of gestational stress and presence of pups on maternal behavior and relevant brain structures. Mothers were stressed using restraint stress (restrained twice a day for 1 hr) and maternal behavior was measured using the pup retrieval test and elevated plus maze (EPM). Brain activity was measured via c-Fos immunohistochemistry. Our results showed no change in maternal behavior between stressed and non-stressed rats, but significant c-Fos differences for both gestational stress and pup presence. Overall, it is possible that presence of pups may mediate depressive activity in relevant brain structures, but further studies should be conducted with emphasis on maternal behavior and depressive-like symptoms, and their effect on the maternal caregiving and stress circuits.