2017 年 66 巻 1 号 p. 61-74
Behavioral adaptations during motherhood are aimed at increasing reproductive success. Alterations of hormones during motherhood could trigger brain morphological changes to underlie behavioral alterations. Here we investigated whether motherhood changes a rat’s sensory perception and spatial memory in conjunction with cortical neuronal structural changes. Female rats of different statuses, including virgin, pregnant, lactating, and primiparous rats were studied. Behavioral test showed that the lactating rats were most sensitive to heat, while rats with motherhood and reproduction experience outperformed virgin rats in a water maze task. By intracellular dye injection and computer-assisted 3-dimensional reconstruction, the dendritic arbors and spines of the layer III and V pyramidal neurons of the somatosensory cortex and CA1 hippocampal pyramidal neurons were revealed for closer analysis. The results showed that motherhood and reproductive experience increased dendritic spines but not arbors or the lengths of the layer III and V pyramidal neurons of the somatosensory cortex and CA1 hippocampal pyramidal neurons. In addition, lactating rats had a higher incidence of spines than pregnant or primiparous rats. The increase of dendritic spines was coupled with increased expression of the glutamatergic postsynaptic marker protein (PSD-95), especially in lactating rats. On the basis of the present results, it is concluded that motherhood enhanced rat sensory perception and spatial memory and was accompanied by increases in dendritic spines on output neurons of the somatosensory cortex and CA1 hippocampus. The effect was sustained for at least 6 weeks after the weaning of the pups.