Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version



Behav Pharmacol. 2015 September ; 26(6): 616–626. doi:10.1097/FBP.0000000000000168.


Rat maternal behavior is a complex social behavior. Many clinically used antipsychotic drugs, including the typical drug haloperidol and atypical drugs clozapine, risperidone, olanzapine, quetiapine, aripiprazole and amisulpride, all disrupt active maternal responses (e.g. pup retrieval, pup licking and nest building) to various extents. In this review, I present a summary of recent studies on the behavioral effects and neurobiological mechanisms of antipsychotic action on maternal behavior in rats. I argue that antipsychotic drugs at the clinical relevant doses disrupt active maternal responses primarily by suppressing maternal motivation. Atypical drug-induced sedation also contributes to their disruptive effects, especially that on pup nursing. Among many potential receptor mechanisms, dopamine D2 receptors and serotonin 5-HT2A/2C receptors are shown to be critically involved in the mediation of the maternal disruptive effects of antipsychotic drugs, with D2 receptors contributing more to typical antipsychotic-induced disruptions, while 5- HT2A/2C receptors contributing more to atypical drug-induced disruption. The nucleus accumbens shell-related reward circuitry is an essential neural network in the mediation of the behavioral effects of antipsychotic drugs on maternal behavior. This research not only helps to understand the extent and mechanisms of impacts of antipsychotic medications on human maternal care, but also is important for enhancing our understanding of the neurochemical basis of maternal behavior. It is also valuable for understanding the complete spectrum of therapeutic and side-effects of antipsychotic treatment. This knowledge may facilitate the development of effective intervening strategies to help patients coping with such undesirable effects.

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