The behavior of the mother and vasopressin

Anna Fodor, Dóra Zelena

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Early mother-infant relationships exert important long-term effects in offspring, and are disturbed by factors such as postpartum depression. The role of vasopressin was confirmed in the development of anxiety and depression. Although these disturbances are more common in females, but most of the preclinical studies was done on males. The relationship between anxiety/depression and maternal behavior has been explored across species using a variety of approaches with the conculsion that individual differences in trait anxiety predict variation in maternal behavior. The maternal brain undergoes remarkable physiological and behavioral changes in the peripartum period to meet the demands of the offspring. Here, the brain neuropeptide, vasopressin plays also an important role. This is reflected by increased expression and intracerebral release of vasopressin, as well as increased neuropeptide receptor expression and binding during the peripartum period. In order to identify the contributions of vasopressin to the display of maternal behavior, various complementary animal models of maternal care and/or maternal aggression were studied, including rats selectively bred for differences in anxiety-related behavior, vasopressin deficient Brattleboro rat strain, as well as local pharmacological or genetic manipulations of the neuropeptide systems. The present review sumarizes data supporting the importance of vasopressin in the regulation of spontaneous and induced maternal care, maternal aggression as well as anxiety and depression-like behavior. We will highlight some important brain areas, like the medial preoptic area, supposed to be major sites for vasopressin-mediated maternal behavior. The conflicting behavioral data underscores the need for more gender specific studies.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHormones and Behavior
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages38
ISBN (Print)9781624177675
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2013


  • Postpartum depression
  • Pup retrieval
  • Spontaneous maternal care
  • Vasopressin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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  • Cite this

    Fodor, A., & Zelena, D. (2013). The behavior of the mother and vasopressin. In Hormones and Behavior (pp. 29-66). Nova Science Publishers, Inc..