Neurobiological Regulation of Maternal Behavior

The regulation of the onset of maternal behavior at parturition is regulated in part by the hormonal changes that accompany pregnancy and birth. Specific roles for the lactogenic hormones, prolactin and placental lactogens, together with their neural sites and modes of action have served to elucidate crucial factors that contribute to the normal and possibly abnormal expression of maternal care during the postpartum period. Moreover, research efforts to understand how the changes in the endocrine system and secretion of hormones contribute to much longer changes in neural processing have identified multiple alterations in neural receptor and transmitter activities that result from prior parenting. Delineating the physiology underlying normative maternal care provides a basis for understanding deviations and variations in maternal care, including maternal neglect and abuse.

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