Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University
Benjamin C Nephew

Assistant Professor

Maternal Behavior Disorders
Section of Neuroscience and Reproductive Biology

Campus Phone:
508-839-7940

Education

  • BS - Hobart College - 1998
  • PhD - Tufts University - 2003

Peripartum depression and anxiety as an integrative cross domain target for psychiatric preventative measures

Author(s):Babb, J.A. | Deligiannidis, K.M. | Murgatroyd, C.A. | Nephew, B.C.
Publication year: 2015
Journal / Book title: Behavioural Brain Research

Peripartum depression and anxiety as an integrative cross domain target for psychiatric preventative measures

Author(s):Babb, J.A. | Deligiannidis, K.M. | Murgatroyd, C.A. | Nephew, B.C.
Publication year: 2014
Journal / Book title: Behavioural Brain Research

Transgenerational effects of social stress on social behavior, corticosterone, oxytocin, and prolactin in rats

Author(s):Babb, J.A. | Carini, L.M. | Spears, S.L. | Nephew, B.C.
Publication year: 2014
Journal / Book title: Hormones and Behavior

The role of maternal care in shaping CNS function

Author(s):Nephew, B. | Murgatroyd, C.
Publication year: 2013
Journal / Book title: Neuropeptides

Using chronic social stress to model postpartum depression in lactating rodents.

Author(s):Carini, L.M. | Murgatroyd, C.A. | Nephew, B.C.
Publication year: 2013
Journal / Book title: Journal of visualized experiments : JoVE

Effects of early life social stress on endocrinology, maternal behavior, and lactation in rats

Author(s):Carini, L.M. | Nephew, B.C.
Publication year: 2013
Journal / Book title: Hormones and Behavior

What we can learn from second animal neuroscience

Author(s):Nephew, B.C.
Publication year: 2013
Journal / Book title: Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Effects of early life social stress on maternal behavior and neuroendocrinology

Author(s):Murgatroyd, C.A. | Nephew, B.C.
Publication year: 2013
Journal / Book title: Psychoneuroendocrinology

Effects of cocaine on maternal behavior and neurochemistry

Author(s):Nephew, B.C. | Febo, M.
Publication year: 2012
Journal / Book title: Current Neuropharmacology

Effects of chronic social stress during lactation on maternal behavior and growth in rats

Author(s):Nephew, B.C. | Bridges, R.S.
Publication year: 2011
Journal / Book title: Stress

Neuroendocrine control: Maternal behavior

Author(s):Bridges, R.S. | Nephew, B.C.
Publication year: 2010
Journal / Book title: Encyclopedia of Neuroscience

Corrigendum to "Central vasopressin V1a receptors modulate neural processing in mothers facing intruder threat to pups" [Neuropharmacology 58 (2010) 107-116]

Author(s):Caffrey, M.K. | Nephew, B.C. | Febo, M.
Publication year: 2010
Journal / Book title: Neuropharmacology

Effect of cocaine sensitization prior to pregnancy on maternal care and aggression in the rat

Author(s):Nephew, B.C. | Febo, M.
Publication year: 2010
Journal / Book title: Psychopharmacology

Vasopressin mediates enhanced offspring protection in multiparous rats

Author(s):Nephew, B.C. | Byrnes, E.M. | Bridges, R.S.
Publication year: 2010
Journal / Book title: Neuropharmacology

Central vasopressin V1a receptors modulate neural processing in mothers facing intruder threat to pups

Author(s):Caffrey, M.K. | Nephew, B.C. | Febo, M.
Publication year: 2010
Journal / Book title: Neuropharmacology

Enhanced Maternal Aggression and Associated Changes in Neuropeptide Gene Expression in Multiparous Rats

Author(s):Nephew, B.C. | Bridges, R.S. | Lovelock, D.F. | Byrnes, E.M.
Publication year: 2009
Journal / Book title: Behavioral Neuroscience

Blood oxygen level-dependent signal responses in corticolimbic 'emotions' circuitry of lactating rats facing intruder threat to pups

Author(s):Nephew, B.C. | Caffrey, M.K. | Felix-Ortiz, A.C. | Ferris, C.F. | Febo, M.
Publication year: 2009
Journal / Book title: European Journal of Neuroscience

Neuroendocrine and Behavioral Adaptations Following Reproductive Experience in the Female Rat

Author(s):Byrnes, E.M. | Nephew, B.C. | Bridges, R.S.
Publication year: 2008
Journal / Book title: Neurobiology of the Parental Brain

Central actions of arginine vasopressin and a V1a receptor antagonist on maternal aggression, maternal behavior, and grooming in lactating rats

Author(s):Nephew, B.C. | Bridges, R.S.
Publication year: 2008
Journal / Book title: Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior

Arginine vasopressin V1a receptor antagonist impairs maternal memory in rats

Author(s):Nephew, B.C. | Bridges, R.S.
Publication year: 2008
Journal / Book title: Physiology and Behavior

General Research Interests

My research is focused on developing a rodent model for stress-induced postpartum maternal behavioral disorders. This model will be used to investigate novel treatments for disorders that disrupt maternal behavior, such as depression and anxiety.  Postpartum behavioral disorders in humans can have negative effects on the health of both mother and offspring, but little is known about the development of these disorders.  Although chronic stress is a known risk factor for depression, and depression is frequently associated with impaired maternal behavior, it is unknown how chronic stress during lactation affects maternal behavior.  My current studies focus specifically on how chronic social stress, an ethologically relevant stressor, impacts maternal behavior.  I use behavioral observation, physiological monitoring, molecular genetics, neuroendocrine manipulation, and functional MRI to investigate this question.  Recent investigations indicate that the neurohormones arginine vasopressin (AVP), oxytocin (OXT), and corticosteroid releasing factor (CRH) are involved in the modulation of maternal behavior in lactating rats.  AVP, OXT, and/or CRH may also be significant factors in the physiological and behavioral effects of chronic stress.  It is likely that that AVP, OXT, and/or CRH are involved in the development of chronic stress-induced behavioral, endocrine, and physiological changes in maternal females. 

Selected Research Projects

  1. "Central Vasopressin and Maternal Behavior.”  The main objectives for this NIH funded project are to develop a rodent model for social stress-induced postpartum behavioral disorders and explore the potential therapeutic value of manipulating the central vasopressin and/or oxytocin pathways. This project involves a collaboration with Dr. Christopher Murgatroyd at the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry on the the use of chronic social stress as a model for early life stress on the offspring of stressed dams.  These studies investigate epigenetic mechanisms for the effects of chronic social stress on offspring physiology, endocrinology, and behavior.  A second collaboration with Dr. Eric Nestler at the Mount Sinai Medical focuses on neural indicators of exposure to chronic stress (CREB) and resilience to the adverse effects of chronic stress (ΔFosB) in stressed dams and their offspring
  2. I also collaborate with Dr. Marcelo Febo at Northeastern University in a NIH funded investigation of the long term behavioral, physiological, and neural effects of a history of adult cocaine use on subsequent maternal behavior using a rodent model.

Major Specialized Equipment

  • Gamma counter
  • Cryostats
  • Microscopes
  • Behavioral Apparatus
  • 7 Tesla small animal MRI magnet.