STILLWATER, OKLAHOMA -- An Oklahoma State University researcher has been awarded a grant for $349,175 to better understand the monogamy and other social behaviors of prairie voles, a rodent found throughout the Midwest that exhibits certain behaviors similar to humans.
In a news release, the research, funded by the Eunice Kennedy Schriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health, could contribute insights for better understanding autism and human bonding, as well as causes of dysfunctions in social attachments.
"The voles form long-term pairbonds and some of their behaviors appear very similar to those that humans might call ‘love' for both a mate and for offspring," said Dr. Alex Ophir, assistant professor, OSU Department of Zoology.
Ophir plans a series of studies to examine how hormones in the brain regulate social affiliation, parental care, territorial behavior, and memory.
"For instance, we will specifically investigate the control of a particular hormone, vasopressin, in brain areas known to influence pairbonding, and ask how the brain functions to maintain monogamous bonds, and promote child care from fathers. We will also ask what influence paternal care has on offspring brain and behavior development," said Ophir.
The release goes on to say the research will provide a better understanding of what controls monogamy and offspring care by fathers.