Dendritic morphology in the striatum and hypothalamus differentially exhibits experience-dependent changes in response to maternal care and early social isolation

Soaleha Shams, Jodi L. Pawluski, Munmun Chatterjee-Chakraborty, Hannah Oatley, Angela Mastroianni, Alison S. Fleming*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

32 Citations (Web of Science)


Changes in neuron morphology, stemming from experiences in early life or adulthood, may be the basis for changes in behavior and their underlying functional mechanisms. For example, reproductive experience has been shown to significantly alter neuron morphology in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. In contrast to the effects of reproductive experience, a form of enrichment, on neuron morphology, our understanding of the effects of early social isolation on adult neuron morphology is limited. Therefore, the present study examined changes in neuron morphology in the dorsal (caudate nucleus) and ventral (nucleus accumbens, shell region) striatum and the medial preoptic area of adult virgin and postpartum females exposed to either artificial or maternal rearing during development. Primary results show that regardless of early social isolation, neurons in the caudate nucleus of postpartum females have decreased dendritic complexity compared to virgin females. Maternal experience also increased dendritic complexity in neurons of the nucleus accumbens shell. However, both early social isolation and maternal experience in adulthood influenced dendritic complexity in the medial preoptic area. Together these findings suggest that hypothalamic and striatal neurons show experience-dependent dendritic plasticity and the type and timing of these experiences differentially affect the location and degree of these morphological changes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-89
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2012


  • Nucleus accumbens
  • Caudate nucleus
  • Medial preoptic area
  • Artificial rearing
  • Maternal behavior
  • Dendritic morphology

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