Free Access
Reprod. Nutr. Dev.
Volume 45, Number 3, May-June 2005
SYMPOSIUM: Homage to Professor Charles Thibault
Page(s) 341 - 351
Reprod. Nutr. Dev. 45 (2005) 341-351
DOI: 10.1051/rnd:2005025

Mechanisms of activation of maternal behaviour in mammals

Pascal Poindron

UMR 6175, CNRS-INRA - Université de Tours - Haras Nationaux, Physiologie de la Reproduction et des Comportements, 37380 Nouzilly, France

Abstract - In mammals, the activation of maternal behaviour depends on internal maternal factors related with parturition. The nature of these factors may vary between species, although oestradiol, foetus expulsion and intracerebral oxytocin are the most commonly encountered. They induce a period of specific receptivity to some sensory cues provided by the neonate. These cues (tactile, olfactory, auditory, ...) also vary between species. The interactions between the mother and her progeny during this period, known as the sensitive period, facilitate the maintenance of maternal responsiveness beyond the initial phase of activation by the factors internal to the mother. The ability of mothers to display a well-adapted maternal behaviour is also modulated by maternal experience gained at the first parturition. Furthermore, this capacity is also influenced by the nature of the interactions experienced in infancy with the own mother of the female, which can lead to a non-genomic transmission of some individual characteristics of maternal behaviour or sensitivity to stress across generations.

Key words: maternal behaviour / physiological control / mammals / maternal experience

Corresponding author: Pascal Poindron

© INRA, EDP Sciences 2005