Seasonal and Sex Differences in Neural AVP Expression and Aggression

To date, our lab’s research has mainly focused on characterizing how seasonal changes in adrenal and gonadal steroid synthesis regulate aggressive behavior in male and female Siberian hamsters (reviewed in Munley et al. 2018, Frontiers in Endocrinology). Because the brain ultimately influences changes in social behavior, however, it is important to examine how the neural circuits mediating aggression are influenced by changes in season. The goal of this study is to characterize whether seasonal differences in the neural abundance of arginine vasopressin (AVP) are associated with aggressive behavior in Siberian hamsters and to determine whether AVP expression differs between males and females. Previous studies suggest that the vasotocin family of neuropeptides (including AVP) are an important component of the social behavior network in vertebrates. While these neuropeptides have been shown to be important in regulating seasonal variation and sex differences in social behavior, the potential role of AVP in modulating seasonal aggression in Siberian hamsters has yet to be explored.

This study is being conducted in collaboration with Misty Proffitt, a Ph.D. candidate in the Smith Lab at Indiana University.