Intensive maternal care during infancy promotes the effect of Neuropeptide Y (NPY) in the brain, experts have said. The former is involved in various processes including stress management, the development of anxiety behaviour and body weight regulation.
Neuropeptide Y (NPY) is the most abundant peptide hormone of the central nervous system.
AdvertisementAs a result of receiving such care, the animals were also less anxious in adulthood and weighed more than their counterparts who had received less affection.
The research group was able to show that the effect is explained by the maternal care, which stimulated the persistent formation of certain NPY receptors in the forebrain.
Neuropeptide Y (NPY) assumes several key roles in the brain's complex control circuits. The messenger substance not only influences body weight but also controls, among other things, the development of anxiety and stress responses.
The study on mice carried out by Rolf Sprengel from the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research and his colleagues in Italy have shown that the effect of NPY depends on how much care and attention the young animals experienced in the first three weeks of life.
Mice who had received little care from their mothers were more anxious adults than their counterparts who had received intensive attention in their early weeks of life. They also remained slimmer throughout their lives.
As the researchers discovered, the maternal behaviour influenced the formation of NPY1 receptors in the limbic system - the area of the brain responsible for the processing of emotions.
"We were able to show that the expression of the NPY1 receptor in the young animals' limbic system is increased by good maternal care," explained Rolf Sprengel.
"This ensures their healthy development in the long term," he said.