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      Dopamine D2 receptors in the nucleus accumbens are important for social attachment in female prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster).

      , , , ,

      Behavioral Neuroscience

      American Psychological Association (APA)

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          Abstract

          The prairie vole (Microtus ochrogaster), a monogamous rodent that forms long-lasting pair bonds, has proven useful for the neurobiological study of social attachment. In the laboratory, pair bonds can be assessed by testing for a partner preference, a choice test in which pair-bonded voles regularly prefer their partner to a conspecific stranger. Studies reported here investigate the role of dopamine D2-like receptors (i.e., D2, D3, and D4 receptors) in the nucleus accumbens (NAcc) for the formation of a partner preference in female voles. Mating facilitated partner preference formation and associated with an approximately 50% increase in extracellular dopamine in the NAcc. Microinjection of the D2 antagonist eticlopride into the NAcc (but not the prelimbic cortex) blocked the formation of a partner preference in mating voles, whereas the D2 agonist quinpirole facilitated formation of a partner preference in the absence of mating. Taken together, these results suggest that D2-like receptors in the NAcc are important for the mediation of social attachments in female voles.

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          Most cited references 52

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          Oxytocin receptor distribution reflects social organization in monogamous and polygamous voles.

           T Insel,  L E Shapiro (1992)
          The neuropeptide oxytocin has been implicated in the mediation of several forms of affiliative behavior including parental care, grooming, and sex behavior. Here we demonstrate that species from the genus Microtus (voles) selected for differences in social affiliation show contrasting patterns of oxytocin receptor expression in brain. By in vitro receptor autoradiography with an iodinated oxytocin analogue, specific binding to brain oxytocin receptors was observed in both the monogamous prairie vole (Microtus ochrogaster) and the polygamous montane vole (Microtus montanus). In the prairie vole, oxytocin receptor density was highest in the prelimbic cortex, bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, nucleus accumbens, midline nuclei of the thalamus, and the lateral aspects of the amygdala. These brain areas showed little binding in the montane vole, in which oxytocin receptors were localized to the lateral septum, ventromedial nucleus of the hypothalamus, and cortical nucleus of the amygdala. Similar differences in brain oxytocin receptor distribution were observed in two additional species, the monogamous pine vole (Microtus pinetorum) and the polygamous meadow vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus). Receptor distributions for two other neurotransmitter systems implicated in the mediation of social behavior, benzodiazepines, and mu opioids did not show comparable species differences. Furthermore, in the montane vole, which shows little affiliative behavior except during the postpartum period, brain oxytocin receptor distribution changed within 24 hr of parturition, concurrent with the onset of maternal behavior. We suggest that variable expression of the oxytocin receptor in brain may be an important mechanism in evolution of species-typical differences in social bonding and affiliative behavior.
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            Oxytocin administered centrally facilitates formation of a partner preference in female prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster).

            Prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster) are monogamous mammals that form male-female pair bonds. Partner preference formation, one component of the pair bond in prairie voles, occurs following male-female cohabitation and is facilitated by mating. The peptide hormone oxytocin is released during physical contact and particularly following vaginal stimulation. Oxytocin has been implicated in mother-infant bond formation. The present study tested the hypothesis that oxytocin participates in the partner preference component of pair bond formation in adult prairie voles. Ovariectomized female prairie voles were implanted with osmotic mini-pumps releasing oxytocin (1-100 ng/h) or artificial cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Pumps were implanted intracerebroventricularly or subcutaneously and females then were housed for 6 h with a male partner, followed by a preference test in which females could elect to spend time with either the partner or an unfamiliar male. Females in groups that received centrally-administered oxytocin (10 or 100 ng/h), but not CSF, exhibited a significant preference for the partner present during infusion. The induction of a partner preference after oxytocin administration appeared specific for central oxytocin pathways as peripheral oxytocin administration was ineffective. Moreover, central administration of a selective oxytocin receptor antagonist inhibited the behavioral effect of exogenous oxytocin. These results suggest that oxytocin may be one factor contributing to the development of partner preferences in this monogamous rodent.
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              A gender-specific mechanism for pair bonding: oxytocin and partner preference formation in monogamous voles.

              Previous studies have demonstrated that central administration of vasopressin but not oxytocin facilitates pair bonding in the monogamous male prairie vole. This study tested vasopressin and oxytocin in the formation of the female vole's preference for a particular male partner. Initial studies showed that in monogamous female prairie voles (but not in nonmonogamous congeners), mating was followed by a partner preference that endured for at least 2 weeks. Nonmating prairie vole females developed a partner preference following oxytocin infusions, but not after vasopressin or cerebrospinal fluid infusions. Females given a selective oxytocin antagonist showed normal mating behavior, yet failed to develop a partner preference. The vasopressin antagonist failed to block partner preference formation in mated females. These results suggest that oxytocin, released with mating, may be critical to formation of a partner preference in the female prairie vole; this contrasts to vasopressin, which appears to be more important for pair bonding in the male of this species.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Behavioral Neuroscience
                Behavioral Neuroscience
                American Psychological Association (APA)
                1939-0084
                0735-7044
                2000
                2000
                : 114
                : 1
                : 173-183
                Article
                10.1037/0735-7044.114.1.173
                10718272
                © 2000

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