Recent investigations suggest that the disruption of placentophagia, pup-directed maternal behavior, and nestbuilding seen after lesions of the medial preoptic area (MPO) or the lateral hypothalamus may be due to the interruption at different points of a single longitudinal neural system mediating these behaviors. To test this, we compared the effects of knife cuts on the lateral border of the MPO, and of the posterior medial forebrain bundle (MFB), with asymmetrical cuts combining a unilateral MPO cut with a contralateral MFB cut. We observed placentophagia, nestbuilding, and pup-directed maternal behaviors at, and after, parturition in both primiparous and biparous rats. In primiparae, MPO cuts (a) disrupted placentophagia, (b) delayed the onset of crouching and pup-licking, and (c) eliminated retrieval and nestbuilding. Asymmetrical cuts (a) disrupted placentophagia, and (b) delayed the onset of maternal behavior. In biparous rats, MPO cuts eliminated nestbuilding and retrieval. MFB cuts (a) disrupted placentophagia, and (b) eliminated nestbuilding. Asymmetrical cuts (a) delayed nestbuilding. These results suggest the involvement of a longitudinal neural system in the production of immediate pup-directed maternal behavior, placentophagia, and nestbuilding in parturient primiparae, but which is not critical for the eventual display of maternal behavior and nestbuilding in maternally naive rats, nor for the immediate onset of placentophagia and maternal behavior in maternally experienced rats
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