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What can we learn from a mother rat?

19 Apr

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What can we learn from a mother rat?

Like humans, rats have bad and good mothers.
But what does it mean to be a good or bad mother? When in confusion always return to the main function, and one of the main functions of a mother is creating a psychologically stable children, which is formed by the unconditional care and love given to the child since he was born till at least puberty.

There’s a scientific experiment done by Michael Meaney, a scientist in McGill university, that observed the stress hormones released by young rats after being exposed to stress experiences and the effect of their mothers’ behavior.

Michael and his team stimulated stress on young rats and observed different patterns of mothers’ behavior towards them. He found that some of the mothers rushed towards their children and licked and groomed them, while others just ignored them.

They measured the stress levels, expressed by stress hormones in blood, and found that the Licking and Grooming counteracted the anxiety and calmed down the surge of stress hormones. Michael’s experiment didn’t stop here, he wanted to see what will be the long term effects on young rats after receiving high or low levels of Licking and Grooming. So when rats under observation reached 22 days old he separated them from their mothers and retested them after being fully mature, about 100 days old.
He tested both types of rats in an open field test, where he placed each in a large box an allowed them to explore at will. Nervous rats tend to stay closer to the wall while bolder rats dare to venture and explore the whole field. He found that rats who had been Licked and Groomed in early life spent seven times as long as rats who received low Licked and Grooming (LG).

The researchers ran test after test and on each one, the high LG rats excelled as adults; they were more curious, more social, better at mazes, less aggressive, hey had more self control, they were healthier and lived longer.

The team found that what seemed a tiny variation in early mothering style produced producing huge difference in behavior as adults. And not only behavioral differences but biological too, the. Researchers found difference in the shape and size of parts of the brain that regulated stress.

Since we all go through stressful situation in childhood, so what can we learn from high licking and grooming mother rats? Maybe some hugs and unconditional care and love to our children?

References:
Research of prof. Michael Meaney: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1413873/
Book: How children succeed by Paul Tough

Photo credit: © Eric Isselée