Parental care is found in species across the animal kingdom, from small insects to large mammals, with a conserved purpose of increasing offspring survival. Yet enormous variability exists between different species and between the sexes in the pattern and level of parental investment. Here, we review the literature on the neurobiological mechanisms underlying maternal and paternal care, especially in rodents, and discuss the relationship between sex differences in behavior and sexual dimorphism in the brain. We argue that although several brain regions and circuits regulating parental care are shared by both sexes, some of the fundamental components comprising the maternal brain are innate and sex specific. Moreover, we suggest that a more comprehensive understanding of the underlying mechanisms can be achieved by expanding the methodological toolbox, applying ethologically relevant approaches such as nontraditional wild-derived animal models and complex seminatural experimental set-ups.
Annual Review of Neuroscience – Annual Reviews
Published: Jul 25, 2017
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