Epigenetically Heritable Effect of Maternal Behavior in Rats

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 11-15-2021


This research sought to identify cognitive differences in rats with “Good” and “Bad” mothers using five behavioral tasks across generations, and if these behaviors had similar to, different from, or summative effects with environmental enrichment. This transgenerational study compared memory, anxiety, and neuro-flexibility in rats in four different developmental stages (Adolescence, Adult Nulliparous, Lactation, and Post-Lactation). Rats were split into four different categories depending on the type of mother they had and if they were provided environmental enrichment: Good Enriched, Good Control, Bad Enriched, and Bad Control. Standard housing was used for non-enriched rats while enriched rats were provided nestles, chew toys, and tunnels. Good and bad mothers were determined based on pup retrieval time. The Forced Swim Test was used to measure resiliency. Swimming, floating, and diving were all active coping strategies that were scored. To measure non-spatial memory, the Novel Object Preference Test was used, while the Object Location Maze was used to measure spatial memory. Data was collected on the amount of time the rats spent with each object. The Elevated Plus Maze was used to measure for boldness and anxiety, with the time spent on open versus closed arms being scored. Results from the first generation showed that good mothers demonstrated better memory than bad mothers, but there were no differences in anxiety or resiliency. The second generation of rats showed that having a good mother and environmental enrichment can enhance an offspring's memory and resiliency, but there were no differences among groups for anxiety.


PRISM Research

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