Comparison of the effects of early handling and early deprivation on maternal care in the rat

Christopher R. Pryce, Daniela Bettschen, Joram Feldon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It has been reported in the rat that postnatal manipulations can induce robust and persistent effects on offspring neurobiology and behavior, mediated in part via effects on maternal care. There have, however, been few studies of the effects of postnatal manipulations on maternal care. Here, we describe and compare the effects on maternal behavior on postnatal days 1-12 of two manipulations, early handling (EH, 15-min isolation per day) and early deprivation (ED, 4-hr isolation per day), relative to our normal postnatal husbandry procedure. Maternal behavior was measured at five time points across the dark phase of the reversed L:D cycle. EH yielded an increase in arched-back nursing across several time points but did not affect any other behavior. ED stimulated a bout of maternal behavior such that licking and arched-back nursing were increased at the time of dam-litter reunion, although not at any other time point. Neither EH nor ED affected weaning weight significantly. Importantly, within-treatment variation was high relative to these between-treatment effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-251
Number of pages13
JournalDevelopmental Psychobiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Development
  • Early deprivation
  • Early handling
  • Maternal care
  • Nonhandling
  • Postnatal manipulation
  • Rat


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