Maternal separation alters social odor preference development in infant mice (Mus musculus)

Nathaniel R. Thomas, Laura K. Fonken, Michelle E. LeBlanc, Catherine A. Cornwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


This study examined whether daily periods of maternal separation during the first two weeks of life would decrease attraction to familiar nest odors in CD-1 mice 10 and 14 days old. We also investigated whether placing a group of mice (Mus musculus) in nest shavings during the 180-min separation period would mitigate possible separation-induced deficits. The maternal separation procedure has been widely used as a rodent model for the effects of inconsistent or inadequate early caretaking on human development. From postnatal day (PND) 1 to 14, litters were separated from the dam, but not littermates for either 15 or 180 min, or were facility-reared controls. Control, facility-reared mice preferred home-cage nest to clean familiar shaving odors on PND 10, but not PND 14. In contrast, home-cage nest odors attracted maternally separated mice on both test days. Our results suggest that maternal separation maintains the olfactory tether to the nest in a period when the attraction normally begins to weaken.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)295-301
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Comparative Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2010


  • Infant development
  • Maternal separation
  • Mice
  • Nest odor
  • Odor preference
  • Social behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)


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