Motherhood is associated with different forms of physiological alterations including transient hormonal changes and brain plasticity. The underlying impact of these changes on the emergence of maternal behaviors and sensory processing within the mother's brain are largely unknown. By using in vivo cell-attached recordings in the primary auditory cortex of female mice, we discovered that exposure to pups' body odor reshapes neuronal responses to pure tones and natural auditory stimuli. This olfactory-auditory interaction appeared naturally in lactating mothers shortly after parturition and was long lasting. Naive virgins that had experience with the pups also showed an appearance of olfactory-auditory integration in A1, suggesting that multisensory integration may be experience dependent. Neurons from lactating mothers were more sensitive to sounds as compared to those from experienced mice, independent of the odor effects. These uni- and multisensory cortical changes may facilitate the detection and discrimination of pup distress calls and strengthen the bond between mothers and their neonates. Video Abstract:
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank I. Nelken, Y. Yarom, T. Zador, L. Luo, S. Shea, Y. Gutfreund, and A. Amedi for critically commenting on early versions of this manuscript. We thank I. Nelken for invaluable advice on statistical analyses and all the members of the A.M. lab for their helpful comments and discussions. We thank H. Kopel for help with the design of the olfactory stimulation. L.C. and A.M. designed and conceived the experiments. L.C. performed the experiments and analyzed the data. G.R. wrote the sounds delivery software and helped with the technical design of the experiments. L.C. and A.M. wrote the paper. L.C. is supported by a fellowship from the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences. This work was supported by a European Research Council grant to A.M. (grant #203994). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.