100-500 words of interesting science for use in pub quizzes and general knowledge relating to science. Today, I want to tell you about prairie voles and Montane voles. Mhmm. Seriously cute neuroscience coming up from my Social Neuroscience lecture.
Hallo! This week, I learnt about lots of scary brain stuff. And then, I learnt about VOLE LOVE. And I learnt, just about the cutest thing I have every heard in a Neuroscience lecture. Seriously cuteness, coming right up…
Vole Love or Lust?
Right. Vole. Love. [notice you can spell both those word with the same letters].
Prairie voles are monogamous, family-unit-focused voles that form an enduring attachment with their partner, known as a pair-bond.
Montane voles, however, are kind of slutty… who mate then sod off; not even sticking around to raise the kids.
The roles of two hormones are shown to be crucial in these behavioural differences; oxytocin and vasopressin, which are only a few amino acids different, with similar effects on attachment.
Oxytocin, simply explained, reduces your stress and is crucial in forming bonds with partners, friends or your children. Oxytocin affects both males and females, though is more effective in females.
Vasopressin, gives you that “I will kill you if you harm my child” emotion, raising your stress and causing aggression to intruders. This hormone has a higher response in males.
Both vole species have similar amounts of oxytocin in their brains; yet the distribution (where in the brain; which lobes and areas they’re found in and thus where the stress is increased or decreased) differs.
Williams et al. (1992) ran a partner preference paradigm with these voles, letting each male near one female for a night. Then the male is given the choice of two females – the same one form the night before, and a new one.
Montane voles, instantly attempt to mate with the new one. (Much like rats, I do believe)
Prairie voles, however, prefer to return to their previously attached female and generally, are content to just NUZZLE HER.
It turns out that disruption of oxytocin or vasopressin prevents the formation of this partner preference, and this oxytocin release is especially important in the nucleus accumbens, alongside dopamine.
If there’s anything you want to ask or say about this, it would be great to see your comments, but really; I wanted to share that not all neuroscience is boring – sometimes it’s full of CUTE!
– Rose –