Social novelty increases tyrosine hydroxylase immunoreactivity in the extended olfactory amygdala of female prairie voles

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Breyanna L. Cavanaugh, Joseph S. Lonstein
Physiology & Behavior
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The monogamous social behaviors of prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster) require olfactory inputs, which are processed by the posterodorsal medial amygdala (MeApd) and principal bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (pBST). The male prairie vole MeApd and pBST contain hundreds of cells densely immunoreactive for tyrosine hydroxylase (TH-ir). Female prairie voles have relatively few of these cells, but we previously found that the number of these TH-ir cells is greatly increased in females by exogenous estradiol. We here hypothesized that the number of TH-ir cells in their MeApd and pBST would also increase during the natural hormone surges associated with females’ induced estrus. We found that the number of TH-ir cells in both sites did significantly increase after females cohabitated for two days with an unfamiliar male. However, this increase did not require the presence of ovaries and even tended to occur in the pBST of females cohabitating for two days with unfamiliar females. We then determined if the greater number of TH-ir cells after heterosexual pairing was transient by examining two groups of long-term pairbonded females (primiparous and multiparous), and found these females also had significantly more TH-ir cells in the pBST and/or MeApd compared to unmated controls. Thus, social novelty arising from cohabitation with unfamiliar conspecifics produces a reoccurring increase in the number of TH-ir cells in the female prairie vole extended olfactory amygdala. Ovarian hormones are not necessarily required. This increase in catecholaminergic cells may facilitate acquisition and retention of olfactory memories necessary for social recognition in this species.


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