Maternal Behavior

The Maternal Brain

      The maternal brain and body is filled with hormones both during and after pregnancy. Without these hormones, mothers would not be able to nurture their offspring properly. Researchers have done extensive tests on mammalian mothers to illustrate how the maternal brain responds to different situations during and after pregnancy in comparison to virgin mammals.   There are several hormones that are responsible for maternal behavior in mammals.   Estrogen is responsible for regulating aggression and sexuality in mammals (Craig, Kelley 74). Progesterone is a lactation-inducing hormone which stimulates maternal behavior, but also regulates responses such as sexuality in mothers (Craig, Kelley 74).   Another hormone that is very important during child labor is endorphins.   During nursing, a mother’s breasts releases endorphins, which act as an opiate drug drawing the mother closer to its baby (Craig, Kelley 74).   Oxytocin also has the same effect as endorphins for the mother, it draws the mother and pups closer also acting like an opiate , it triggers birth contractions and milk release. It improves memory and learning in the mother’s brain (Craig, Kelley 74).

      There are several regions of the brain that are instrumental in maternal behaviors. Damaging any of these areas will negatively affect the mother’s ability to nurse her young. The prefrontal cortex regulates reward in mothers and becomes activated when the human mother gazes at their children (Craig, Kelley 75).   The cingulated cortex regulates emotions that are important in maternal behavior. Damaging it would eliminate maternal behavior (Craig, Kelley 74).   The nucleus accumbens is a site that is important to reinforcement and reward; it increases significantly when a mother nurses her pups. The hypothalamus is responsible for producing endorphins via with the pituitary gland. The hypothalamus   also regulates maternal responses. The hippocampus governs memory and learning...