Infant avoidance and aggression are promoted by activation of the Urocortin-3 expressing neurons of the perifornical area of hypothalamus (PeFAUcn3) in male and female mice. PeFAUcn3 neurons have been implicated in stress, and stress is known to reduce maternal behavior. We asked how chronic restraint stress (CRS) affects infant-directed behavior in virgin and lactating females and what role PeFAUcn3 neurons play in this process. Here we show that infant-directed behavior increases activity in the PeFAUcn3 neurons in virgin and lactating females. Chemogenetic inhibition of PeFAUcn3 neurons facilitates pup retrieval in virgin females. CRS reduces pup retrieval in virgin females and increases activity of PeFAUcn3 neurons, while CRS does not affect maternal behavior in lactating females. Inhibition of PeFAUcn3 neurons blocks stress-induced deficits in pup-directed behavior in virgin females. Together, these data illustrate the critical role for PeFAUcn3 neuronal activity in mediating the impact of chronic stress on female infant-directed behavior.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience