Carter CS, Altemus M, Chrousos GP. Neuroendocrine and emotional changes in the post-partum period. Prog Brain Res 133: 241-249

Department of Psychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL 60612, USA.
Progress in brain research (Impact Factor: 2.83). 02/2001; 133:241-9. DOI: 10.1016/S0079-6123(01)33018-2
Source: PubMed


As well as having widespread effects on many aspects of mammalian physiology, the hormones of both the reproductive and stress axes can directly and indirectly influence behavior. Here we review possible mechanisms through which centrally active hormones of the female reproductive system and the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal stress axis may interact to influence behavior and mood states during the post-partum period. We will focus primarily on the behavioral effects of selected neuropeptide hormones, in particular oxytocin, vasopressin and corticotrophin-releasing hormone. The literature documenting central behavioral effects of these neuropeptides arises almost exclusively from research in experimental animals. In particular, it has been reported that during lactation in rats there are high blood and brain levels of oxytocin. At the same time there is a reduction in corticotrophin-releasing hormone in the brain and in its secretion in response to stress. These changes may contribute to optimal maternal care of the offspring. Correlational studies of peptides and behavior in the post-partum period also support the hypothesis that neuropeptides may influence human physiology and behavior. Studies of post-partum women reveal powerful regulatory effects of lactation on the reactivity of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis and of autonomic and immune systems, especially in the face of challenge. The integrative function of neural systems that influence both reproduction and the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis suggests one central mechanism for mediating the effects of environmental challenges.

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    • "Another potential consideration is that the act of nursing itself may influence maternal GC levels. Studies in humans and rodents indicate that the suckling stimulus of infants elicits the release of oxytocin in the mother, which attenuates maternal cortisol concentrations (Carter et al. 2001; Windle et al. 2004). Given the flexibility observed here, more detailed studies are needed to understand the relationship between maternal physiological stress levels and this fundamental mammalian behavior. "
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    ABSTRACT: Individual differences in maternal behavior toward, and investment in, offspring can have lasting consequences, particularly among primate taxa characterized by prolonged periods of development over which mothers can exert substantial influence. Given the role of the neuroendocrine system in the expression of behavior, researchers are increasingly interested in understanding the hormonal correlates of maternal behavior. Here, we examined the relationship between maternal behavior and physiological stress levels, as quantified by fecal glucocorticoid metabolite (FGM) concentrations, in lactating chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii, at Gombe National Park, Tanzania. After accounting for temporal variation in FGM concentrations, we found that mothers interacted socially (groomed and played) with and nursed their infants more on days when FGM concentrations were elevated compared to days when FGM concentrations were within the range expected given the time of year. However, the proportion of time mothers and infants spent in contact did not differ based on FGM concentrations. These results generally agree with the suggestion that elevated GC concentrations are related to maternal motivation and responsivity to infant cues and are the first evidence of a hormonal correlate of maternal behavior in a wild great ape.
    International Journal of Primatology 06/2015; 36(3). DOI:10.1007/s10764-015-9836-2 · 1.99 Impact Factor
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    • "Among these, the most obvious are lactogenesis and maternal behavior, including maternal care and aggression (Walker et al., 1995; Neumann, 2001; Russell et al., 2001; Hillerer et al., 2012). However, in addition to changes directly associated with reproductive functioning, a host of important behavioral and physiological alterations occur (Walker et al., 1995; Carter et al., 2001; Neumann , 2001, 2003), with decreased anxiety (Altemus et al., 1995; Carter et al., 2001; Heinrichs et al., 2001) [and see (Slattery and Neumann, 2008) for review] and increased basal cortisol/corticosterone (CORT) levels amongst the most prominent. The latter alteration is related to the presence of nursing pups (Stern et al., 1973; Walker et al., 1995) and has been directly correlated with the concomitant decrease in hippocampal neurogenesis observed during the first postpartum weeks (Leuner et al., 2007). "
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    ABSTRACT: The peripartum period is a time of high susceptibility for mood and anxiety disorders, some of them have recently been associated with alterations in hippocampal neurogenesis. Several factors including stress, ageing, and, perhaps unexpectedly, lactation have been shown to decrease hippocampal neurogenesis. Intriguingly, lactation is also a time of reduced stress responsivity suggesting that the effect of stress on neurogenic processes may differ during this period. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to assess the effect of repeated stress during lactation (2 h restraint stress from lactation day (LD) 2 to LD13) on brain weight, hippocampal volume, cell proliferation and survival, and on neuronal and astroglial differentiation. Besides confirming the known lactation-associated decrease in cell proliferation and survival, we could reveal that stress reversed the lactation-induced decrease in cell proliferation, while it did neither affect survival of newly born cells nor the number of mature neurons in lactation but did not alter immature neuron production or the number of astroglial cells. Stress exposure increased relative brain weight and hippocampal volume mirroring the observed changes in neurogenesis. Interestingly, hippocampal volume and relative brain weight were lower in lactation compared to nulliparous females under non-stressed conditions. This study assesses the effect of stress during lactation on hippocampal neurogenesis and indicates that stress interferes with important peripartum adaptations at the level of the hippocampus. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    Hippocampus 06/2014; 24(6). DOI:10.1002/hipo.22258 · 4.16 Impact Factor
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    • "These anxiolytic effects have been well demonstrated in mice (Mantella et al., 2003; Ring et al., 2006) and there is some evidence for similar effects in humans. Nursing mothers with higher OT plasma levels are more likely to describe positive mood states and reduced anxiety (Carter et al., 2001; Heinrichs et al., 2001) whereas abuse in childhood has been linked to lower OT concentrations in CSF and higher anxiety scores (Heim et al., 2009). Intranasal OT has been shown to decrease anxiety in a simulated public speaking test (de Oliveira et al., 2012; Heinrichs et al., 2003). "
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    ABSTRACT: The last decade has seen a large number of published findings supporting the hypothesis that intranasally delivered oxytocin (OT) can enhance the processing of social stimuli and regulate social emotion-related behaviors such as trust, memory, fidelity, and anxiety. The use of nasal spray for administering OT in behavioral research has become a standard method, but many questions still exist regarding its action. OT is a peptide that cannot cross the blood-brain barrier, and it has yet to be shown that it does indeed reach the brain when delivered intranasally. Given the evidence, it seems highly likely that OT does affect behavior when delivered as a nasal spray. These effects may be driven by at least three possible mechanisms. First, the intranasally delivered OT may diffuse directly into the CNS where it directly engages OT receptors. Second, the intranasally delivered OT may trigger increased central release via an indirect peripheral mechanism. And third, the indirect peripheral effects may directly lead to behavioral effects via some mechanism other than increased central release. Although intranasally delivered OT likely affects behavior, there are conflicting reports as to the exact nature of those behavioral changes: some studies suggest that OT effects are not always "pro-social" and others suggest effects on social behaviors are due to a more general anxiolytic effect. In this critique, we draw from work in healthy human populations and the animal literature to review the mechanistic aspects of intranasal OT delivery, and to discuss intranasal OT effects on social cognition and behavior. We conclude that future work should control carefully for anxiolytic and gender effects, which could underlie inconsistencies in the existing literature.
    Brain research 11/2013; 1580. DOI:10.1016/j.brainres.2013.11.008 · 2.84 Impact Factor
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