Suckling induced activation pattern in the brain of rat pups

János Barna, Eva Renner, Antónia Arszovszki, Melinda Cservenák, Zsolt Kovács, Miklós Palkovits, Arpád Dobolyi

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Objectives: The aim of the study was to understand the effects of suckling on the brain of the pups by mapping their brain activation pattern in response to suckling. Methods: The c-fos method was applied to identify activated neurons. Fasted rat pups were returned to their mothers for suckling and sacrificed 2 hours later for Fos immunohistochemistry. Double labeling was also performed to characterize some of the activated neurons. For comparison, another group of fasted pups were given dry food before Fos mapping. Results: After suckling, we found an increase in the number of Fos-immunoreactive neurons in the insular and somatosensory cortices, central amygdaloid nucleus (CAm), paraventricular (PVN) and supraoptic hypothalamic nuclei, lateral parabrachial nucleus (LPB), nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS), and the area postrema. Double labeling experiments demonstrated the activation of calcitonin gene-related peptide-ir (CGRP-ir) neurons in the LPB, corticotropin-releasing hormone-ir (CRH-ir) but not oxytocin-ir neurons in the PVN, and noradrenergic neurons in the NTS. In the CAm, Fos-ir neurons did not contain CRH but were apposed to CGRP-ir fiber terminals. Refeeding with dry food-induced Fos activation in all brain areas activated by suckling. The degree of activation was higher following dry food consumption than suckling in the insular cortex, and lower in the supraoptic nucleus and the NTS. Furthermore, the accumbens, arcuate, and dorsomedial hypothalamic nuclei, and the lateral hypothalamic area, which were not activated by suckling, showed activation by dry food. Discussion: Neurons in a number of brain areas are activated during suckling, and may participate in the signaling of satiety, taste perception, reward, food, and salt balance regulation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-327
Number of pages11
JournalNutritional Neuroscience
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 28 2018



  • Food intake
  • Lactation
  • Milk consumption
  • Mother litter interaction
  • Nursing
  • Rodent dam
  • Satiety
  • c-fos activation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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