Functions of the Caudal Periaqueductal Gray in Lactating Rats: Kyphosis, Lordosis, Maternal Aggression, and Fearfulness

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Severe impairment of the kyphotic nursing posture in lactating rats found previously after prepartum lesions of the caudal intercollicular periaqueductal gray (cPAG-x) was confirmed and was extended to a continuous 24-hr period. Litters of cPAG-x dams gained ∼10% less weight postnatally than controls, which was in part related to their dams' compensatory prone nursing posture that was ineffective for milk letdown. Sexual proceptivity and receptivity (lordosis) during the postpartum estrus were virtually eliminated in subjects with relatively large bilateral cPAG lesions. The doubling of maternal attacks toward a male intruder after lesioning was also confirmed and was related to reduced fearfulness in an elevated plus-maze. Thus, the cPAG plays a multifaceted role in parturient rats; it is involved in the mediation of nursing, sexual, aggressive, and fear behaviors.

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