Prairie voles are a monogamous species native to the American Midwest. They are becoming a premier biomedical model for conditions that involve social dysfunction (such as autism and other developmental disorders).
In our lab, we study the effects of early experience on the adult social behavior and neuroendocrine systems of prairie voles, especially focusing on the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin. We have used a number of early manipulations including developmental exposure to oxytocin; early handling manipulations; and early naturalistic experiences such as alloparenting siblings. We have shown that these manipulations have long-term effects on social behavior including alloparenting and pair-bonding, as well as oxytocin and vasopressin systems.
We are also examining long-term effects of exposure to intranasal oxytocin, which is already being used in humans as a treatment for autism spectrum disorders.
This material is based upon work supported by the National Institutes of Health, grant NICHD HD071998 to Karen Bales, Marjorie Solomon, and Suma Jacob and grant NIMH MH108319 to Karen Bales and Nirao Shah.