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 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. The vasotocin family of neuropeptides (including AVP) have been shown to modulate behavior by acting on nodes of the social behavior network, a collection of midbrain, hypothalamic, and basal forebrain nuclei that have been implicated in the regulation of social behavior in vertebrates. While prior studies suggest that these neuropeptides mediate 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.