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Neuromodulation of maternal circuits by oxytocin

Valtcheva, Silvana, Froemke, Robert C.
Cell and tissue research 2019 v.375 no.1 pp. 57-68
cerebral cortex, cortex, infants, lactation, mammals, mothers, neurons, neuropeptides, oxytocin, parturition, progeny
Motherhood in mammals involves tremendous changes throughout the body and central nervous system, which support attention and nurturing of infants. Maternal care consists of complex behaviors, such as nursing and protection of the offspring, requiring new mothers to become highly sensitive to infant needs. Long-lasting neural plasticity in various regions of the cerebral cortex may enable the perception and recognition of infant cues, important for appropriate caregiving responses. Recent findings have demonstrated that the neuropeptide oxytocin is involved in a number of physiological processes, including parturition and lactation and dynamically shaping neuronal responses to infant stimuli as well. Here, we review experience-dependent changes within the cortex occurring throughout motherhood, focusing on plasticity of the somatosensory and auditory cortex. We outline the role of oxytocin in gating cortical plasticity and discuss potential mechanisms regulating oxytocin release in response to different sensory stimuli.