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Behav Neurosci. 1995 Aug;109(4):782-9.

A gender-specific mechanism for pair bonding: oxytocin and partner preference formation in monogamous voles.

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  • 1National Institute of Mental Health, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.


Previous studies have demonstrated that central administration of vasopressin but not oxytocin facilitates pair bonding in the monogamous male prairie vole. This study tested vasopressin and oxytocin in the formation of the female vole's preference for a particular male partner. Initial studies showed that in monogamous female prairie voles (but not in nonmonogamous congeners), mating was followed by a partner preference that endured for at least 2 weeks. Nonmating prairie vole females developed a partner preference following oxytocin infusions, but not after vasopressin or cerebrospinal fluid infusions. Females given a selective oxytocin antagonist showed normal mating behavior, yet failed to develop a partner preference. The vasopressin antagonist failed to block partner preference formation in mated females. These results suggest that oxytocin, released with mating, may be critical to formation of a partner preference in the female prairie vole; this contrasts to vasopressin, which appears to be more important for pair bonding in the male of this species.

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