Rewritable fidelity: How repeated pairings and age influence subsequent pair-bond formation in male prairie voles.


Neuroscience Institute, Georgia State University, United States of America; Kinsey Institute, Indiana University, United States of America. Electronic address: [Email]


The prairie vole has proven a valuable animal model for the neurobiological study of social monogamy and pair bonding. Previous research has focused almost exclusively on virgin prairie voles forming pair-bonds for the first time - a paradigm with limited relevance to human social behavior. In the present study, we used stud males to assess the impact of repeated pair-bond formation and dissolution on the behaviors and neurobiology relevant to subsequent pair-bond formation. Stud males were tested for behavioral and neurobiological effects of repeated pair-bonding after the 1st, 5th, and 10th pairing. Aged breeder males that experienced minimal pair-bond dissolution were included to control for the effects of aging. Results showed that male prairie voles readily form new pair-bonds after repeated pair-bond dissolution. In terms of social monogamy, old age was associated with males spending less time in close social contact with unfamiliar females. There were no effects of age nor number of lifetime pairings on depressive-like behavior or paternal behavior toward pups. Within the brain, the patterns of oxytocin (OTR) and vasopressin type 1a (V1aR) receptors were largely unaffected, with the following exceptions: 1) males with only a single pairing had higher OTR densities in the paraventricular thalamus and bed nucleus of the stria terminalis; 2) there was an age-related increase in the density of OTR in the caudate putamen and an age-related decline in the density of V1aR in the cortical amygdala. The present findings have translational relevance to human social behavior in the context of aging and social experience.


Aging,Brain,Monogamy,Oxytocin,Paternal behavior,Prairie vole,Social bonding,Vasopressin,