Project 1 - Neural Representation of Social Stimuli: Rodent Models

Oxytocin (OT) plays a general role in many aspects of social motivation, cognition and memory. However, our understanding of the neurobiological substrates through which it acts is far from complete, particularly at the neural circuit level.

In this Project, we propose using rodent models to test hypotheses about OT’s function and dysfunction in modulating limbic neural activity and functional connectivity during social behavior, since rodents offer an exceptional opportunity to monitor neural activity in vivo during natural social interactions.

In Project 1 we pursue two complementary approaches in two distinct rodent models that are each optimized to address the positive and negative valence aspects of our hypothesis.

We will determine whether blocking OT action to impair the formation of a partner preference in a prairie vole model of social bonding decreases functional neural connectivity between relevant brain regions.


We will determine whether enhancing OT action to rescue normal social preferences in a rat fetal valproate (VPA) model of social dysfunction increases functional neural connectivity between relevant brain regions.