Social Behavior

Sex Differences in Neural Control of Social Behavior
Many behavioral disorders related to social behavior show striking sex differences in incidence. For example, autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are much more common in boys than in girls. Sexual differentiation of the brain likely contributes to these differences, but it has been difficult to determine how, for at least two reasons. First, disorders such as ASD manifest early in development. Although major advances have been made in understanding the neural basis of social behavior in adults, how such behavior is controlled during development is by and large unknown. Secondly, although sex differences are found in structure as well as function of the brain, the relationship between these two is mostly unclear, even in healthy subjects. Hardly any studies have addressed the function of neural sex differences in development. This is exactly what our lab is focusing on. We are studying the sexually dimorphic vasopressin innervation, a system that has been implicated in social behavior in adult animals. We use a combination of psychopharmacological and genetic approaches to test how vasopressin controls social behavior in juvenile rodents and focus on sex differences in this process. Some of this research is performed in collaboration with the labs of Elliott Albers and Aras Petrulis.

Further Reading

Paul MJ, Peters NV, Holder MK, Kim AM, Whylings J, Terranova JI, De Vries GJ. 2016. Atypical social development in vasopressin-deficient Brattleboro rats. eNeuro 3 e0150-15.2016 1-15.

Paul MJ, Terranova JI, Probst CK, Ismail NI, De Vries GJ. 2014. Sexually dimorphic role for vasopressin in the development of social play. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience 8: 58.

Veenema AH, Bredewold R, De Vries GJ. 2013. Sex-specific modulation of juvenile social play by vasopressin. Psychoneuroendocrinology 38: 2554-2561.

Veenema AH, Bredewold R, De Vries GJ. 2012. Vasopressin regulates social recognition in juvenile and adult rats of both sexes, but in sex- and age-specific ways. Hormones and Behavior 61: 50-56.

De Vries GJ. 2004. Sex differences in adult and developing brains; compensation, compensation, compensation. Endocrinology, 145: 1063-1068.

Wang Z, Ferris CF, De Vries GJ (1994) Role of septal vasopressin innervation in paternal behavior in prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster). Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 91: 400-404.

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