Guidance and differentiation of maternally directed orienting behaviors: Probing the origins of filial attachment
Newborn rats seek and attain contact with their mothers by orienting and primitive locomotor behaviors called maternally-directed orienting behaviors (MDOBs). By 2 days of age MDOBs are elicited specifically by maternal features and are heightened by a period of acute separation from the mother. This behavioral regulation by the mother's presence suggests an early form of filial attachment. To probe for other evidence of filial attachment, two aspects of the controls of MDOBs were investigated: (1) whether MDOBs are goal-corrected in relation to the dam's position and (2) whether the performance of MDOBs can be separated from that of suckling. It was found that, during the first 2 days after birth, MDOBs maintained the pup's ventrum-to-ventrum contact with the dam regardless of her position, suggesting that they are goal-corrected. Evidence was not found for independent controls of nipple grasping (NG), the behavior that initiates suckling, and MDOBs during the first two postnatal days.