Social attachments are a vital part of healthy human behavior and an inability to form such attachments is regarded as a symptom of mental disorders such as schizophrenia and autism. Studying the mechanisms underlying social attachment requires an animal model that displays behaviors similar to that of human social attachment. Prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster) have become an important model for the study of the neurobiology of social attachment. In the field, male and female prairie voles form long-term bonds and share a nest throughout the breeding season. Such a breeding pair typically remains together until one animal dies. For prairie voles, it has been demonstrated that 24 h of mating reliably results in partner preference formation, whereas 6 h of cohabitation in the absence of mating does not induce this behavior. Given that mating in prairie voles induces neuroadaptations that eventually lead to bonding, we propose here to investigate whether mating induced social bonding has an underlying epigenetic basis. Our preliminary data support this hypothesis.

Public Health Relevance

Prairie voles have become an important model for the study of the neurobiology of social attachment. Given that mating in prairie voles induces adaptations in specific brain regions that eventually lead to bonding, we propose in this proposal to investigate some of mechanisms that underlie the development of social bonding in prairie voles. Understanding the mechanisms of social bonding is very relevant to understanding some psychopathologies like autism and schizophrenia.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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Neuroendocrinology, Neuroimmunology, and Behavior Study Section (NNB)
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Beckel-Mitchener, Andrea C
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Florida State University
Other Basic Sciences
Schools of Medicine
United States
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