Maternal separation affects rat’s brains and changes adult behavior

Associate professor of psychology Christopher Lapish at the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis School of Science has shown that if a baby rat is taken from its mother for 24 hours when the baby is nine days old, it changes their behavior as adults.

The study showed that there was memory impairment and less communication between brain regions as well as other neurological changes in the rat’s brain. Rats that were separated showed significant behavioral, biological and physiological, brain abnormalities in adulthood.

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The findings in this study have a bearing on humans as well. According to co-author Brian F. O’Donnell, professor of psychological and brain sciences at IU Bloomington, “children exposed to early-life stress or deprivation are at higher risk for mental illness and addictions later in life, including schizophrenia.”

This research is also supported by the findings that if kittens are taken from their mothers before they are weaned, they tend to show more aggressive behavior as adults. I know that children who are taken from their mothers at birth and put up for adoption have a higher rate of attachment disorder as a result.

Because rat brains have similarities to human brains, this study can lead to further findings. It would be interesting to study the behavior of all animals that are bottle fed by humans and even those that are fostered with a different mother to see if there are differences in their behavior from those that are raised by their birth mother.

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