The nucleus accumbens shell is critical for normal expression of pup-retrieval in postpartum female rats

Ming Li, Alison S. Fleming

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

78 Scopus citations


The nucleus accumbens (NA) plays an important modulatory role in the control of normal expression of maternal behavior (termed maternal performance). The present study investigated the relative functions of two subregions of the NA (the shell and core) in maternal performance. Electrolytic lesions of the shell or core were performed either before parturition or immediately after a varying amount of maternal experience (none, 1 or 24h) during the immediate postpartum period. Maternal performance was tested on Day 1 postpartum and re-tested 9 days later using a pup sensitization technique. Results show that lesions of the shell, but not the core, significantly disrupted pup-retrieval: the shell-lesioned rats took significantly longer to finish retrieving all test pups, but their retrieval latency for the first pup was not affected. Neither lesion affected other components of maternal behavior (pup licking, nest building and nursing). These findings suggest that the shell, but not the core, is critical for the normal expression of pup-retrieval behavior possibly through its role in maintaining maternal motivation or attention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-111
Number of pages13
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Oct 17 2003



  • Maternal motivation
  • Maternal performance
  • Rat
  • The nucleus accumbens core
  • The nucleus accumbens shell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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