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Mother’s Touch Supports Pup's Brain Development

A mother's presence may have immediate and long-term effects on her child's developing brain by modulating the serotonin system, suggests a study of rat moms and their pups published in eNeuro. The research provides a potential mechanism by which separating a child from his or her mother early in life could derail development.

By wirelessly recording the brain activity of rat pups during interaction with their mother, Catia Teixeira and colleagues provide evidence for a direct connection between maternal care and the neurotransmitter serotonin — two factors known to be crucially involved in brain development. The researchers demonstrate that a mother’s presence in the nest increases activity in the pups’ prefrontal cortex, a slowly developing brain region rich in serotonin receptors. Blocking these receptors counteracted the effect, while treating isolated pups with the selective-serotonin-reuptake-inhibitor fluoxetine increased prefrontal cortex activity similarly to that observed in the mother’s presence. These results implicate maternal contact and the serotonin system as important regulators of neuronal activity in the developing brain.

[Summary prepared by The Society for Neuroscience.]

Article: Maternal regulation of pups' cortical activity: role of serotonergic signaling
Corresponding author: Catia Teixeira (Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research, Orangeburg, NY, USA),

Investigators Receive Funding to Probe Genetic Protection in Alzheimer's



Efrat Levy, PhD, Paul Mathews, PhD (Center for Dementia Research), and Donald Wilson, PhD (Emotional Brain Institute) are Co-Principal Investigators on a large RF1 NIA grant titled “Neuronal protective apolipoprotein E2-mediated endocytic and exocytic pathways”. This application was in response to a request for applications from the NIA designed to fill in the significant gap in the field's understanding of why the apolipoprotein E2 allele is protective against Alzheimer's disease. The success of this grant was made possible by preliminary findings by Kathy Peng during her graduate studies, by the efforts of Brett East and Gloria Fleming, and through NKI’s mouse resources, supported in part by the efforts of Monika Pawlik and by Kathleen Shannon and the rest of the facility staff.

NKI Faculty Publish Frequently in Top-Tier Journals


Recent papers by NKI authors (highlighted) appearing in The American Journal of Psychiatry and JAMA Psychiatry. These include original investigations, reviews, and editorial pieces.



  • Goff DC. Optimizing the Pharmacologic Treatment of Individuals With First-Episode Psychosis. Am J Psychiatry. 2018 Feb 1;175(2):101-102.
  • Castellanos FX, Elmaghrabi SE. On the Road to Physiological Models of Brain Function in ADHD. Am J Psychiatry. 2017 Sep 1;174(9):825-826.
  • Goff DC, Falkai P, Fleischhacker WW, Girgis RR, Kahn RM, Uchida H, Zhao J, Lieberman JA. The Long-Term Effects of Antipsychotic Medication on Clinical Course in Schizophrenia. Am J Psychiatry. 2017 Sep 1;174(9):840-849. [Erratum in: Am J Psychiatry. 2017 Aug 1;174(8):805.]
  • Pine DS, LeDoux JE. Elevating the Role of Subjective Experience in the Clinic: Response to Fanselow and Pennington. Am J Psychiatry. 2017 Nov 1;174(11):1121-1122.

  • Javitt DC, Carter CS, Krystal JH, Kantrowitz JT, Girgis RR, Kegeles LS, Ragland JD, Maddock RJ, Lesh TA, Tanase C, Corlett PR, Rothman DL, Mason G, Qiu M, Robinson J, Potter WZ, Carlson M, Wall MM, Choo TH, Grinband J, Lieberman JA. Utility of Imaging-Based Biomarkers for Glutamate-Targeted Drug Development in Psychotic Disorders: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Psychiatry. 2018 Jan 1;75(1):11-19.
  • Hansen H, Braslow J, Rohrbaugh RM. From Cultural to Structural Competency-Training Psychiatry Residents to Act on Social Determinants of Health and Institutional Racism. JAMA Psychiatry. 2018 Feb 1;75(2):117-118.
  • Metzl JM, Hansen H. Structural Competency and Psychiatry. JAMA Psychiatry. 2018 Feb 1;75(2):115-116.
  • Goff DC, Zeng B, Ardekani BA, Diminich ED, Tang Y, Fan X, Galatzer-Levy I, Li C, Troxel AB, Wang J. Association of Hippocampal Atrophy With Duration of Untreated Psychosis and Molecular Biomarkers During Initial Antipsychotic Treatment of First-Episode Psychosis. JAMA Psychiatry. 2018 Apr 1; 75(4):370-378.
  • Aoki Y, Yoncheva YN, Chen B, Nath T, Sharp D, Lazar M, Velasco P, Milham MP, Di Martino A. Association of White Matter Structure With Autism Spectrum Disorder and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. JAMA Psychiatry. 2017 Nov 1;74(11):1120-1128.