Michigan State University

College of Social Science

Human Development Initiative

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The Human Development Initiative, begun in 2009, is a community of scholars throughout the university interested in development across the lifespan. The initiative creates venues where scholars involved in cutting-edge research in the social and health sciences (including genetics, neuroscience, and psychosocial development) can focus on the intersections between their own work and that of other researchers. We invite faculty and graduate students to join us at our bi-weekly brown bag speaker series and our fall and spring colloquia.

Lonstein Joe Lonstein
Ph.D. Biopsychology and Behavioral Neuroscience, Department of Psychology, Rutgers University 1997
Masters Biopsychology and Behavioral Neuroscience, Department of Psychology, Rutgers University 1995
Bachelors Biology and Psychology, State University of New York at Binghamton 1992
Primary Program: Behavioral Neuroscience
219 Giltner
(517) 353-8675

Research Statement

The focus of research in the Lonstein lab is to better understand the neurobiology of parenting and postpartum emotional state in mammals.  Non-postpartum females of most species do not act very maternally toward infants, although a dramatic change in responding occurs after females are pregnant and their infants are born. Research in the Lonstein lab is devoted to understanding how the hormones of pregnancy and lactation alter neurochemistry in the laboratory rat brain to promote nurturant behaviors towards infants. 

A related area of research is devoted to studying how reproductive state and physical contact with offspring postpartum modulate female neurochemistry in a way that affects anxiety.  We are particularly interested in how infant contact modulates the maternal noradrenergic, GABAergic and serotonergic systems to supress the mother's anxiety and optimize her display of caregiving behaviors.

Adequate and appropriate maternal responding is critical for the normal development, if not survival, of offspring. Understanding the parental brain, therefore, has clear implications for non-human development as well as for human welfare.

Research Publications    
2014Ragan, C.M. & Lonstein, J.S. (2014). Postpartum sensitivity to the anxiety-modulating effects of offspring contact is associated with females’ previous anxiety and brainstem dopamine-beta-hydroxylase. Neuroscience, 256, 433-444.
2013Motta, S.C., Guimares, C.C., Furigo, I.C., Sukikara, M.H., Lonstein, J.S., & Canteras, N.S., (2013). The ventral premammillary nucleus and the organization of maternal aggressive behavior. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 110, 14438-43.
2013Smith, C.D., Piasecki, C.C., Weera, M. & Lonstein, J.S. (2013). Noradrenergic alpha-2 receptor modulators in the ventral bed nucleus of the stria terminalis: effects on anxiety behavior in postpartum and virgin female rats. Behavioral Neuroscience, 127(4):582-97.
2012Smith, C.D., Holschbach, M.A., Olszewicz, J.E. & Lonstein, J.S. (2012). Effects of noradrenergic alpha-2 receptor antagonism or noradrenergic lesions in the ventral bed nucleus of the stria terminalis and medial preoptic area on maternal care in female rats. Psychopharmacology, 224:263-76.
2010Miller SM, Piasecki CC, Peabody MF, Lonstein JS. (2010). GABA(A) receptor antagonism in the ventrocaudal periaqueductal gray increases anxiety in the anxiety-resistant postpartum rat. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 95(4):457-65
2009Miller, S.M. & Lonstein, J.S. (2009). Dopaminergic projections to the medial preoptic area of postpartum rats. Neuroscience, 159(4):1384-96.
2008Smith, C.D. & Lonstein, J.S. (2008). Contact with infants influences anxiety-induced c-fos activity in the postpartum rat brain. Behavioral Brain Research, 190, 193-200.
2007Lonstein JS. (2007). Regulation of anxiety during the postpartum period. Front Neuroendocrinol. 28(2-3):115-41.