Repeated long separations from pups produce depression-like behavior in rat mothers

Maria L. Boccia, Maria Razzoli, Sivaram Prasad Vadlamudi, Whit Trumbull, Christopher Caleffie, Cort A. Pedersen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Long maternal (LMS) versus brief maternal (BMS) daily separations of rat pups from their mothers have contrasting effects on their adult stress responses and maternal behavior by, respectively, decreasing and increasing licking received from their mothers. We hypothesized that LMS decreases pup-licking in mothers by inducing learned helplessness, creating a depression-like state. We subjected postpartum rats to LMS (3 h), BMS (15 min) or no separation (NMS) on postpartum days 2-14. After weaning, mothers were given a forced swim test (FST). LMS mothers exhibited more immobility and fewer escape attempts than BMS or NMS mothers. These results suggest that LMS induces a depression-like state, which may account for the reductions in maternal behavior seen in LMS mothers. Immobility in the FST is recognized as an animal model of depression. Therefore, LMS may be a model of maternal depression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-71
Number of pages7
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by PHS Grants MH066217 to MLB and MH61995 to CAP.


  • Handling effects
  • Learned helplessness
  • Maternal depression
  • Maternal separation


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