Antipsychotic drugs on maternal behavior in rats

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Rat maternal behavior is a complex social behavior. Many clinically used antipsychotic drugs, including the typical drug haloperidol and the atypical drugs clozapine, risperidone, olanzapine, quetiapine, aripiprazole, and amisulpride, disrupt active maternal responses (e.g. pup retrieval, pup licking, and nest building) to various extents. In this review, I present a summary of recent studies on the behavioral effects and neurobiological mechanisms of antipsychotic action on maternal behavior in rats. I argue that antipsychotic drugs at clinically relevant doses disrupt active maternal responses primarily by suppressing maternal motivation. Atypical drug-induced sedation also contributes to their disruptive effects, especially that on pup nursing. Among many potential receptor mechanisms, dopamine D2 receptors and serotonin 5-HT2A/2C receptors are shown to be critically involved in the mediation of the maternal disruptive effects of antipsychotic drugs, with D2 receptors contributing more to typical antipsychotic-induced disruptions, whereas 5-HT2A/2C receptors contributing more to atypical drug-induced disruptions. The nucleus accumbens shell-related reward circuitry is an essential neural network in the mediation of the behavioral effects of antipsychotic drugs on maternal behavior. This research not only helps understand the extent and mechanisms of impact of antipsychotic medications on human maternal care, but is also important for enhancing our understanding of the neurochemical basis of maternal behavior. It is also valuable for understanding the complete spectrum of therapeutic effects and side-effects of antipsychotic treatment. This knowledge may facilitate the development of effective intervening strategies to help patients coping with such undesirable effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)616-626
Number of pages11
JournalBehavioural pharmacology
StatePublished - Aug 8 2015


  • antipsychotic drugs
  • dopamine D receptor
  • maternal behavior
  • nucleus accumbens
  • prefrontal cortex
  • rat
  • serotonin 5-HT receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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