Patterns of Maternal Behavior in Rats Selectively Bred for Saccharin Preference
Forward, Sally K.
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Environment affects behavior. This simple fact arises out of the complex relationship between an organism and its surroundings in its struggle to find food and reproduce. Besides environment, genetics and specific inherited traits also influence behavior. Varying levels of novelty seeking and general anxiety in a population could be inherited or the result of early environment. Maternal care often plays a critical role in early development for many organisms. The general anxiety and attentiveness of a mother, as well as the stress to which the young are exposed, affects the potential for generalized anxiety. The Occidental Low-Saccharin (LoS) and High-Saccharin (HiS) preferring rat lines display differences in emotionality, involving vulnerability to stress and general anxiety. The reason for this variance in behaviors is not fully understood. A higher level of general maternal anxiety, differing amounts of maternal care, or genetic predisposition could be responsible for the resulting behavioral differences. The way to discover the cause of differing behaviors in the HiS and LoS is to use the reciprocal cross-fostering paradigm. In reciprocal cross-fostering, litters of HiS and LoS are exchanged, so a LoS litter would be raised by a HiS mother and a HiS by a LoS. The purpose of this research is to study strain differences in maternal behaviors between the Occidental HiS and LoS. As the litters become mature, behavioral tests will reveal general anxiety levels in the rats. The roles of maternal care and inheritance may then be clarified to reveal some influences of each.