Effects of acute corticosterone treatment on male prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster): Territorial aggression does not accompany induced social preference

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Dimitri V Blondel, Steven M Phelps
Journal of Comparative Psychology
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Corticosterone (CORT) is a stress-related steroid hormone found in vertebrates, and is known to interact with behavior. In the socially monogamous prairie vole Microtus ochrogaster, acute stress and specifically acute CORT administration have been shown to facilitate male social preference for a familiar female, and this effect has been described as facilitation of the monogamous pair bond. It is possible, however, that the effects of stress on social preference may initially represent a short-term coping strategy. Here we test whether the effect of acute CORT administration extends to territoriality, a defining component of the prairie vole monogamous suite of behaviors. Onset of territoriality would provide further support for an induced pair bond, whereas no increase in aggression would suggest an initial coping response. Using acute exogenous CORT injections followed by behavioral trials, we found a facilitation of social preference, but we did not find increased aggression. This result suggests that the social preference that develops in response to CORT is at least in part a coping response rather than facilitation of comprehensive monogamous pair bond behavior. Our results are consistent with previous studies both within prairie voles and across other taxa that suggest that social contact may be involved in the regulation of stress responses.


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