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Nucleus accumbens dopamine differentially mediates the formation and maintenance of monogamous pair bonds

Nature Neuroscience volume 9, pages 133139 (2006) | Download Citation

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Abstract

The involvement of dopamine within the nucleus accumbens in the formation and maintenance of pair bonds was assessed in a series of experiments using the monogamous prairie vole. We show that dopamine transmission that promotes pair bond formation occurs within the rostral shell of the nucleus accumbens, but not in its core or caudal shell. Within this specific brain region, D1- and D2-like receptor activation produced opposite effects: D1-like activation prevented pair bond formation, whereas D2-like activation facilitated it. After extended cohabitation with a female, male voles showed behavior indicative of pair bond maintenance—namely, selective aggression towards unfamiliar females. These voles also showed a significant upregulation in nucleus accumbens D1-like receptors, and blockade of these receptors abolished selective aggression. Thus, neuroplastic reorganization of the nucleus accumbens dopamine system is responsible for the enduring nature of monogamous pair bonding. Finally, we show that this system may also contribute to species-specific social organization.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank F.K. Stephan, M.E. Freeman, K.J. Berkley, R.J. Contreras, C.D. Fowler and M.D. Smeltzer for critical reading of the manuscript and J. Bredesen for technical assistance. This work was supported by US National Institutes of Health grants MH-67396 to B.J.A, HD-40722 to J.T.C, and MH-58616, MH-66734 and DA-19627 to Z.W.

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  1. Department of Psychology and Program in Neuroscience, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida 32306-1270, USA.

    • Brandon J Aragona
    • , Yan Liu
    • , Y Joy Yu
    • , J Thomas Curtis
    • , Jacqueline M Detwiler
    •  & Zuoxin Wang
  2. National Institute of Mental Heath, 6001 Executive Boulevard, MSC 9669, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-9669, USA.

    • Thomas R Insel

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Correspondence to Brandon J Aragona.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nn1613