Psychology, Department of


Document Type


Date of this Version

March 1987


Published in Developmental Psychobiology 20:2 (1987), pp. 147–163. Copyright © 1987 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Used by permission.


Infant rats deprived of food, maternal care, and the opportunity to suckle display a dramatic behavioral activation and vigorously ingest when provided milk through oral cannulas. These experiments assessed which components of deprivation are important in producing these responses to milk. Nutritional deprivation alone, with or without the presence of an active maternal female, appears to be sufficient to produce ingestion. Behavioral activation, on the other hand, appears to require both nutritional deprivation and deprivation from a maternal female. The effect of maternal stimulation on later behavioral reactivity was not a function of the pups’ opportunity to suckle. However, active maternal stimulation was more effective in preventing activation than was passive maternal stimulation (e.g., thermotactile and olfactory stimulation). Stimulation provided by an active, non-lactating mother was effective in preventing behavioral activation, but the effect was short-lived, lasting only 2 hr after the pup was removed from the mother’s care. This series of studies thus reveals that identified components of maternal separation have dissociable effects on appetitively motivated behaviors in infant rats.