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April 1, 2013

Fathers less responsive to pup pheromones

A father showing parenting behavior and returning its pups to its nest

A father showing parenting behavior and returning its pups to its nest.

Sexually naïve male mice respond aggressively to chemical pheromones released by newborn pups, while pup pheromone perception is suppressed in fathers, that as a result show a more nurturing, parental behavior toward pups.

A team of researchers from the Brain Science Institute has uncovered the neural mechanism underlying this behavioral transition from attack to parenting toward pups in male mice.

The researchers show that a region in the nose called the vomeronasal organ is less sensitive to pup-derived pheromones in fathers than sexually naïve males. 

The findings may help scientists to better understand the changes that take place in the brains of some mammals during the transition into parenthood.

These results were published in the Journal of Neuroscience, doi: 10.1523/​JNEUROSCI.2364-12.2013