Joseph S. Lonstein, PhD
Ph.D., 1997, Rutgers University
East Lansing Campus
219 Giltner Hall
The primary focus of research in the Lonstein lab is to understand the neurobiology of peripartum emotional regulation and parental behaviors in mammals. Dramatic changes occur in emotional reactivity and maternal interest after females are pregnant and give birth to infants. Many female rodents show reduced fear and anxiety after giving birth to offspring, which is important for the mother's ability to display maternal care towards the novel and potentially anxiety-provoking pups. We aim to understand the neurobiology underlying peripartum changes in anxiety behaviors and trade-offs between anxiety and maternal care in postpartum laboratory rats. We are currently studying how the mother's bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BST) and its downstream projections regulate the tradeoff between mothering and anxiety, and how tactile inputs from pups impinge upon this neural system to influence BST neurochemistry and mother's behavior.
Our research involves studying this question at many levels of analysis. These include detailed examination of maternal and anxiety-related behaviors, neuroanatomical tracing, measuring the expression of neurotransmitter receptors and proteins using autoradiography and Western blotting, and determining levels of neurotransmitter content and release using microdialysis and HPLC.