Maternal behaviour (2016)

Course name: Maternal behaviour

ECTS credits


Course parameters

Language: English

Level of course: PhD course

Semester/quarter: January 2016   

Capacity limits: 30

Expected students total: 20                                     

Expected students from ANIS: 4

Objectives of the course

The aims are to give the students a basic understanding of

1) the biological processes controlling maternal behaviour and enhancing filial bonding,

2) the impact of ‘quality’ of maternal behaviour on fearfulness, learning and social responses of the young

3) the effect of the environment on peri-parturient and neonatal behaviour.

Learning outcomes and competences

The students will

- become familiar with the state-of-the-art of central parts of mammalian maternal behaviour

- understand the biological control of mammalian maternal behaviour incl. neurophysiological and hormonal control

- understand the biological mechanism of the formation of the mammalian mother-young bond

- understand the effect of ‘quality’ maternal care on the cognitive and emotional development of the young

- be able to evaluate potential risks to normal parturition and successful maternal behaviour in mammalian species managed by humans

Compulsory programme

Students are required to participate actively in the residential Ph.D. course from Monday morning to Friday afternoon.

Course contents

The course is based on lectures by internationally recognised researchers, active student participation in group work, theoretical exercises, plenary discussions, as well as active participation in the Nordic ISAE meeting.

Monday to Wednesday’s program includes lectures, discussion class and group work, while Thursday’s and Friday’s course program consists of active participation in Nordic ISAE 2016 which has the main theme “Maternal Behaviour”. This includes students’ arrangement of a workshop on maternal behaviour during the Nordic ISAE meeting. 

Before arrival at the venue, the participating students are expected to have read the list of background literature provided by the organizers, and to have prepared a short presentation of their own field of work.

Participants are expected to deliver 90 working hours. This includes:

Course: 5 days in January 2016, including lectures, presentations, discussion class and group work

Pre-course preparation includes reading of background literature, preparation and presentation of own work.  


This course targets PhD students and researchers within biological science, veterinary, agricultural and health sciences working with mammals, including animal model studies, experimentation, in zoo and animal parks.

Name of lecturers:

Cathy Dwyer, Janne Winther Christensen, Lene Juul Pedersen, Jens Malmkvist, Karen Thodberg, Margit Bak Jensen  

The course organizers are:

Senior scientists Margit Bak Jensen and Karen Thodberg and associate professor Janne Winther Christensen


Original literature in the form of reviews and papers from international journals and textbooks on maternal behaviour. A list of relevant reading material (20 papers) will be provided before 15 November 2015.

Course homepage:

Course assessment:

Students are required to (a) deliver an individual student presentation where own PhD plan is placed in perspective to the course literature, (b) read the list of literature provided before the course, (c) pairwise prepare and present a theoretical account in a given topic, (d) act as qualified opponents towards other student presentations, (e) take active part in the ISAE meeting, (f) to summit a final written report.

Failing to fulfill either of these will lead to the course being not passed.


The course is provided by the Department of Animal Science, Aarhus University

Special comments on this course:

This course is arranged in connection with the Nordic ISAE. Several Nordic researchers working with maternal and neonatal behaviour are expected to attend the ISAE meeting, which will ensure excellent discussion and feedback to students on the workshop they arrange as part of the course.


18-22 January 2016


Vingsted Hotel & Conference center, Denmark


Open from 1 August to 1 November 2015 via e-mail to, including form with title and start year of PhD project, scientific keywords, proposed title of participant presentation, animal species, address and contact information. Information regarding granted application is given to all by 2 November 2015.

Comments on content: 
Revised 05.11.2018