Sydney: A caring mother could insulate her children from drug addiction later in life. Researchers from Australia's University of Adelaide and Duke University in the US showed for the first time how mothering can strengthen an offspring's immune system in the brain.

Using rats as a model, neuroscientists demonstrated that if babies are nurtured adequately, it increases the production of a molecule in the brain's immune system called Interleukin-10 or IL-10.

The molecule leaves them less susceptible to drug cravings as an adult, the Journal of Neuroscience reports.

Mark Hutchinson from the University of Adelaide's School of Medical Sciences and Staci Bilbo, assistant professor at Duke University, exposed baby rats to morphine and noted their follow-up cravings for the drug.

'Rat pups who were well nurtured by their mothers showed less cravings for morphine after the initial dose than those rats who were left alone,' Hutchinson said, according to a University of Adelaide statement.

'The more IL-10 produced in the brain, the less likely morphine causes an increase in craving or relapse weeks after initially being exposed to the drug,' he added.

The rats who experienced 'high-touch' mothering produced four times as much IL-10 as the  control animals.

Bilbo said: 'It's important to note that the genetic modification created by the mothering didn't change the initial rewarding effect of the morphine. It altered the craving for that reward much later on.'

(Agencies)