Vasopressin, which is important for behavior and brain development, begins to influence osmoregulation with the onset of weaning. We studied the role of vasopressin in the development of feeding behavior since its mechanisms might be essential for the age determination of the suckling and weaning periods. Radionuclide methods were employed to follow maternal milk, solid food and water consumption in developing Brattleboro rats. The appearance of solid food intake and the spontaneous extinction of maternal milk intake indicated the onset and the end of weaning. The absence of endogenous vasopressin did not influence the onset and/or the duration of the weaning period. Both vasopressin-deficient homozygous Brattleboro rats and their heterozygous littermates (with preserved vasopressin synthesis) began to consume solid food and water at the age of 16 days and their intake of maternal milk was terminated about the 27th day of age. Thus, the maturation of feeding behavior in the suckling and weaning periods is vasopressin-independent. © 1986.
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