Nursing stimulation is more than tactile sensation: It is a multisensory experience

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Marcelo Febo, Tara L. Stolberg, Michael Numan, Robert S. Bridges, Praveen Kulkarni, Craig F. Ferris
Hormones and Behavior
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Novel sensory experiences, particularly those associated with epochal developmental events like nursing alter cortical representation, affecting memory, perception and behavior. Functional MRI was used here to test whether the sensoricortical map of the ventrum is modified during lactation. Three stimuli were used to drive cortical activation in primiparous rats: natural, artificial suckling stimulation and general mechanical rubbing of the skin of the ventrum. These stimuli significantly activated the somatosensory cortex of dams. Of the three stimuli, artificial and pup suckling robustly activated much of the cerebrum, most notably the visual, auditory and olfactory cortices. Surprisingly, activation occurred even in the absence of pups, with artificial suckling. This finding suggests that incoming information from a single modality was sufficient to drive activity of others. Enhanced sensitivity across the cortical mantle during nursing may help the dam to perceive, process, and remember stimuli critical to the care and protection of her young.


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