Most animals display robust parental behaviors that support the survival and well-being of their offspring. The manifestation of parental behaviors is accompanied by physiological and hormonal changes, which affect both the body and the brain for better care giving. Rodents exhibit a behavior called pup retrieval – a stereotyped sequence of perception and action - used to identify and retrieve their newborn pups back to the nest. Pup retrieval consists of a significant auditory component, which depends on plasticity in the auditory cortex (ACx). We review the evidence of neural changes taking place in the ACx of rodents during the transition to parenthood. We discuss how the plastic changes both in and out of the ACx support the encoding of pup vocalizations. Key players in the mechanism of this plasticity are hormones and experience, both of which have a clear dynamic signature during the transition to parenthood. Mothers, co caring females, and fathers have been used as models to understand parental plasticity at disparate levels of organization. Yet, common principles of cortical plasticity and the biological mechanisms underlying its involvement in parental behavior are just beginning to be unpacked.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank members of the Mizrahi lab for comments on the manuscript.
© 2023 Elsevier B.V.
- Auditory cortex
- Parental care