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The neurobiology of pair bonding.

Nature neuroscience

Reward, metabolism, Receptors, Neuropeptide, Pair Bond, Neuropeptides, anatomy & histology, Neural Pathways, Models, Animal, Humans, Dopamine, physiology, Brain, Animals

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      Abstract

      A neurobiological model for pair-bond formation has emerged from studies in monogamous rodents. The neuropeptides oxytocin and vasopressin contribute to the processing of social cues necessary for individual recognition. Mesolimbic dopamine is involved in reinforcement and reward learning. Concurrent activation of neuropeptide and dopamine receptors in the reward centers of the brain during mating results in a conditioned partner preference, observed as a pair bond. Differential regulation of neuropeptide receptor expression may explain species differences in the ability to form pair bonds. These and other studies discussed here have intriguing implications for the neurobiology of social attachment in our own species.

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      Most cited references 64

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      Microsatellites within genes: structure, function, and evolution.

      Recently, increasingly more microsatellites, or simple sequence repeats (SSRs) have been found and characterized within protein-coding genes and their untranslated regions (UTRs). These data provide useful information to study possible SSR functions. Here, we review SSR distributions within expressed sequence tags (ESTs) and genes including protein-coding, 3'-UTRs and 5'-UTRs, and introns; and discuss the consequences of SSR repeat-number changes in those regions of both prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Strong evidence shows that SSRs are nonrandomly distributed across protein-coding regions, UTRs, and introns. Substantial data indicates that SSR expansions and/or contractions in protein-coding regions can lead to a gain or loss of gene function via frameshift mutation or expanded toxic mRNA. SSR variations in 5'-UTRs could regulate gene expression by affecting transcription and translation. The SSR expansions in the 3'-UTRs cause transcription slippage and produce expanded mRNA, which can be accumulated as nuclear foci, and which can disrupt splicing and, possibly, disrupt other cellular function. Intronic SSRs can affect gene transcription, mRNA splicing, or export to cytoplasm. Triplet SSRs located in the UTRs or intron can also induce heterochromatin-mediated-like gene silencing. All these effects caused by SSR expansions or contractions within genes can eventually lead to phenotypic changes. SSRs within genes evolve through mutational processes similar to those for SSRs located in other genomic regions including replication slippage, point mutation, and recombination. These mutational processes generate DNA changes that should be connected by DNA mismatch repair (MMR) system. Mutation that has escaped from the MMR system correction would become new alleles at the SSR loci, and then regulate and/or change gene products, and eventually lead to phenotype changes. Therefore, SSRs within genes should be subjected to stronger selective pressure than other genomic regions because of their functional importance. These SSRs may provide a molecular basis for fast adaptation to environmental changes in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes.
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        Association of Anxiety-Related Traits with a Polymorphism in the Serotonin Transporter Gene Regulatory Region

         K-P Lesch,  D Bengel,  A Heils (1996)
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          The neural correlates of maternal and romantic love.

          Romantic and maternal love are highly rewarding experiences. Both are linked to the perpetuation of the species and therefore have a closely linked biological function of crucial evolutionary importance. Yet almost nothing is known about their neural correlates in the human. We therefore used fMRI to measure brain activity in mothers while they viewed pictures of their own and of acquainted children, and of their best friend and of acquainted adults as additional controls. The activity specific to maternal attachment was compared to that associated to romantic love described in our earlier study and to the distribution of attachment-mediating neurohormones established by other studies. Both types of attachment activated regions specific to each, as well as overlapping regions in the brain's reward system that coincide with areas rich in oxytocin and vasopressin receptors. Both deactivated a common set of regions associated with negative emotions, social judgment and 'mentalizing', that is, the assessment of other people's intentions and emotions. We conclude that human attachment employs a push-pull mechanism that overcomes social distance by deactivating networks used for critical social assessment and negative emotions, while it bonds individuals through the involvement of the reward circuitry, explaining the power of love to motivate and exhilarate.
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            Author and article information

            Journal
            10.1038/nn1327
            15452576

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