Neurobiology of Social Attraction and Preference

Summary

Principal Investigator: ARAS T PETRULIS
Abstract: Sexual disorders, such as erectile dysfunction and female sexual arousal disorder, are common in human populations and are strongly associated with increased anxiety and depression. Although substantial progress has been made in understanding and treating peripheral and organic causes of these disorders, much less is known about pathological changes in sexual arousal or "libido." To generate attraction and preference for mates, human and non-human animals must integrate signals about their reproductive state (gonadal steroid hormones) with perception of social cues (often odors or pheromones). This proposal will identify and characterize the neural substrates underlying steroidal and chemosensory interaction on attraction and preference for female odors in male golden hamsters, a model organism whose sexual behavior is critically dependent on both social odors and hormones. The experiments will test the hypothesis that steroid-sensitive elements of the medial amygdala (MA) and bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) mediate the modulatory and permissive effects of gonadal steroids on attraction and preference, whereas chemosensory regions of MA and BNST mediate the evaluative processes underlying preference for female odors. Using behavioral techniques, excitotoxic lesions and electrophysiological recordings in awake, behaving animals, this hypothesis will be tested by determining whether (a) lesioning steroid-sensitive or chemosensory MA and BNST regions impairs sexual attraction and preference, (b) the firing responses of individual neurons and populations of neurons within chemosensory and steroid-sensitive regions of MA and BNST differ in their response specificity to female odors and (c) disconnecting these chemosensory and steroid-sensitive region impairs preference and attraction and changes neural activity within these structures. This data will provide novel insights into how sexual attraction and preference is generated by the nervous system and how sensory and internal state cues interact to regulate motivated behavior.
Funding Period: 2005-01-01 - 2009-12-31
more information: NIH RePORT

Top Publications

  1. pmc Endogenous oxytocin is necessary for preferential Fos expression to male odors in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis in female Syrian hamsters
    Luis A Martinez
    Georgia State University, Neuroscience Institute, 100 Piedmont Ave SE, Atlanta, GA 30303, USA Electronic address
    Horm Behav 64:653-64. 2013
  2. ncbi Chemosignals and hormones in the neural control of mammalian sexual behavior
    Aras Petrulis
    Georgia State University, Neuroscience Institute, 100 Piedmont Ave SE, Atlanta, GA 30303, USA Electronic address
    Front Neuroendocrinol 34:255-67. 2013
  3. pmc Chemosignals, hormones and mammalian reproduction
    Aras Petrulis
    Georgia State University, Neuroscience Institute, Atlanta, GA 30303, USA
    Horm Behav 63:723-41. 2013
  4. pmc The medial preoptic area is necessary for sexual odor preference, but not sexual solicitation, in female Syrian hamsters
    Luis A Martinez
    Georgia State University, Neuroscience Institute, 100 Piedmont Ave SE, Atlanta, GA 30303, USA
    Horm Behav 63:606-14. 2013
  5. pmc Dissociated functional pathways for appetitive and consummatory reproductive behaviors in male Syrian hamsters
    Laura E Been
    Georgia State University, Neuroscience Institute, 100 Piedmont Avenue NE, Atlanta, GA 30303, USA
    Horm Behav 61:204-11. 2012
  6. pmc X-ray kinematics analysis of vaginal scent marking in female Syrian hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus)
    Laura E Been
    Georgia State University, Neuroscience Institute, 100 Piedmont Avenue NE, Atlanta, GA 30303, USA
    Physiol Behav 105:1021-7. 2012
  7. pmc The bed nucleus of the stria terminalis is critical for sexual solicitation, but not for opposite-sex odor preference, in female Syrian hamsters
    Luis A Martinez
    Georgia State University, Neuroscience Institute, 100 Piedmont Ave SE, Atlanta, GA 30303, USA
    Horm Behav 60:651-9. 2011
  8. pmc Chemosensory and hormone information are relayed directly between the medial amygdala, posterior bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, and medial preoptic area in male Syrian hamsters
    Laura E Been
    Georgia State University, Neuroscience Institute, 100 Piedmont Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30303, USA
    Horm Behav 59:536-48. 2011
  9. pmc The role of the medial preoptic area in appetitive and consummatory reproductive behaviors depends on sexual experience and odor volatility in male Syrian hamsters
    L E Been
    Georgia State University, Neuroscience Institute, 100 Piedmont Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30303, USA
    Neuroscience 170:1120-32. 2010
  10. pmc Blocking oxytocin receptors inhibits vaginal marking to male odors in female Syrian hamsters
    Luis A Martinez
    Neuroscience Institute, Center for Behavioral Neuroscience, Georgia State University, PO Box 5030, Atlanta, GA 30302 5030, USA
    Physiol Behav 101:685-92. 2010

Scientific Experts

Detail Information

Publications19

  1. pmc Endogenous oxytocin is necessary for preferential Fos expression to male odors in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis in female Syrian hamsters
    Luis A Martinez
    Georgia State University, Neuroscience Institute, 100 Piedmont Ave SE, Atlanta, GA 30303, USA Electronic address
    Horm Behav 64:653-64. 2013
    ..Together, these data suggest that OT facilitation of neuronal activity in BNST underlies the facilitative effects of OT on solicitational responses to male odors. ..
  2. ncbi Chemosignals and hormones in the neural control of mammalian sexual behavior
    Aras Petrulis
    Georgia State University, Neuroscience Institute, 100 Piedmont Ave SE, Atlanta, GA 30303, USA Electronic address
    Front Neuroendocrinol 34:255-67. 2013
    ....
  3. pmc Chemosignals, hormones and mammalian reproduction
    Aras Petrulis
    Georgia State University, Neuroscience Institute, Atlanta, GA 30303, USA
    Horm Behav 63:723-41. 2013
    ..Although generating much research and public interest, strong evidence for the existence of a robust chemical communication among humans is lacking...
  4. pmc The medial preoptic area is necessary for sexual odor preference, but not sexual solicitation, in female Syrian hamsters
    Luis A Martinez
    Georgia State University, Neuroscience Institute, 100 Piedmont Ave SE, Atlanta, GA 30303, USA
    Horm Behav 63:606-14. 2013
    ..Finally, all MPOA-X females exhibited lordosis appropriately. These results suggest that MPOA plays a critical role in the neural regulation of certain aspects of odor-guided precopulatory behaviors in female Syrian hamsters...
  5. pmc Dissociated functional pathways for appetitive and consummatory reproductive behaviors in male Syrian hamsters
    Laura E Been
    Georgia State University, Neuroscience Institute, 100 Piedmont Avenue NE, Atlanta, GA 30303, USA
    Horm Behav 61:204-11. 2012
    ....
  6. pmc X-ray kinematics analysis of vaginal scent marking in female Syrian hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus)
    Laura E Been
    Georgia State University, Neuroscience Institute, 100 Piedmont Avenue NE, Atlanta, GA 30303, USA
    Physiol Behav 105:1021-7. 2012
    ..These data therefore provide new targets for future studies examining the peripheral control of female reproductive behaviors...
  7. pmc The bed nucleus of the stria terminalis is critical for sexual solicitation, but not for opposite-sex odor preference, in female Syrian hamsters
    Luis A Martinez
    Georgia State University, Neuroscience Institute, 100 Piedmont Ave SE, Atlanta, GA 30303, USA
    Horm Behav 60:651-9. 2011
    ..Taken together, these results demonstrate that BNST is critical for the normal expression of solicitational behaviors by females in response to male odor stimuli...
  8. pmc Chemosensory and hormone information are relayed directly between the medial amygdala, posterior bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, and medial preoptic area in male Syrian hamsters
    Laura E Been
    Georgia State University, Neuroscience Institute, 100 Piedmont Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30303, USA
    Horm Behav 59:536-48. 2011
    ..Together, these data demonstrate that Me, BNST, and MPOA interact as a functional circuit to process sex-specific odor cues and hormone information in male Syrian hamsters...
  9. pmc The role of the medial preoptic area in appetitive and consummatory reproductive behaviors depends on sexual experience and odor volatility in male Syrian hamsters
    L E Been
    Georgia State University, Neuroscience Institute, 100 Piedmont Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30303, USA
    Neuroscience 170:1120-32. 2010
    ..Together, these results demonstrate that the role of MPOA in appetitive and consummatory aspects of reproductive behavior varies with the volatility of the sexual odors and the sexual experience of the male...
  10. pmc Blocking oxytocin receptors inhibits vaginal marking to male odors in female Syrian hamsters
    Luis A Martinez
    Neuroscience Institute, Center for Behavioral Neuroscience, Georgia State University, PO Box 5030, Atlanta, GA 30302 5030, USA
    Physiol Behav 101:685-92. 2010
    ..Considered together, these results suggest that OT in MPOA-AH and/or BNST normally facilitates male odor-induced vaginal marking, providing further evidence that OT generally supports prosocial interactions among conspecifics...
  11. ncbi The anterior medial amygdala transmits sexual odor information to the posterior medial amygdala and related forebrain nuclei
    Pamela M Maras
    Georgia State University, Neuroscience Institute, Atlanta, GA 30302 5030, USA
    Eur J Neurosci 32:469-82. 2010
    ....
  12. pmc Anatomical connections between the anterior and posterodorsal sub-regions of the medial amygdala: integration of odor and hormone signals
    P M Maras
    Georgia State University, Neuroscience Institute, Department of Psychology, Center for Behavioral Neuroscience, P O Box 5030, Atlanta, GA 30302 5030, USA
    Neuroscience 170:610-22. 2010
    ..More broadly, the interactions between MeA and MePD may represent a basic mechanism by which the brain integrates information about social cues in the environment with hormonal indices of reproductive state...
  13. pmc Lesions of the posterior bed nucleus of the stria terminalis eliminate opposite-sex odor preference and delay copulation in male Syrian hamsters: role of odor volatility and sexual experience
    Laura E Been
    Neuroscience Institute, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA 30302 5030, USA
    Eur J Neurosci 32:483-93. 2010
    ..Together, these results demonstrate that the pBNST plays a unique and critical role in both appetitive and consummatory aspects of male reproductive behaviors...
  14. pmc Lesions that functionally disconnect the anterior and posterodorsal sub-regions of the medial amygdala eliminate opposite-sex odor preference in male Syrian hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus)
    P M Maras
    Department of Psychology, Center for Behavioral Neuroscience, Neuroscience Institute, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA 30302 5030, USA
    Neuroscience 165:1052-62. 2010
    ..More broadly, these results support the role of the MA in integrating chemosensory and hormone information, a process that may underlie social odor processing in a variety of behavioral contexts...
  15. pmc Neural mechanisms of individual and sexual recognition in Syrian hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus)
    Aras Petrulis
    Neuroscience Institute, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA 30302 5030, USA
    Behav Brain Res 200:260-7. 2009
    ..Evidence is presented that analysis of social odors may initially be done in MEa and then communicated to MEpd, perhaps through micro-circuits that separately process male and female odors...
  16. pmc The posteromedial cortical amygdala regulates copulatory behavior, but not sexual odor preference, in the male Syrian hamster (Mesocricetus auratus)
    P M Maras
    Georgia State University, Department of Psychology, Center for Behavioral Neuroscience, P O Box 3966, Atlanta, GA 30302 3966, USA
    Neuroscience 156:425-35. 2008
    ..Importantly, these data provide the first direct evidence for a functional role of the PMCo in regulating male reproductive behavior...
  17. pmc Olfactory experience and the development of odor preference and vaginal marking in female Syrian hamsters
    Pamela M Maras
    Georgia State University, Department of Psychology, Center for Behavioral Neuroscience, P O Box 3966, Atlanta, GA 30302 3966, USA
    Physiol Behav 94:545-51. 2008
    ..Furthermore, they suggest that distinct mechanisms regulate the development of odor preferences and vaginal marking behavior in this species...
  18. pmc Female hamster preference for odors is not regulated by circulating gonadal hormones
    Lori N Eidson
    Department of Psychology, Center for Behavioral Neuroscience Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA 30302, USA
    Physiol Behav 91:134-41. 2007
    ..Taken together, this suggests that circulating levels of gonadal hormones do not influence preference for male volatile odors in female hamsters...
  19. ncbi Chemosensory and steroid-responsive regions of the medial amygdala regulate distinct aspects of opposite-sex odor preference in male Syrian hamsters
    Pamela M Maras
    Department of Psychology, Center for Behavioral Neuroscience, Georgia State University, PO Box 3966, Atlanta, GA 30302 3966, USA
    Eur J Neurosci 24:3541-52. 2006
    ..Taken together, these results suggest that both the MEa and MEpd are critical for the expression of opposite-sex odor preference, although they appear to mediate distinct aspects of this behavior...