The neuropeptide arginine vasopressin (AVP) modulates a variety of species-specific social behaviors. In socially monogamous male prairie voles, AVP acts centrally via vasopressin V1a receptor (V1aR) to facilitate mating induced partner preferences. The display of a partner preference requires at least 2 temporally distinct processes: social bond formation as well as its recall, or expression. Studies to date have not determined in which of these processes V1aR acts to promote partner preferences. Here, male prairie voles were administered intracerebroventricularly a V1aR antagonist (AVPA) at different time points to investigate the role of V1aR in social bond formation and expression. Animals receiving AVPA prior to cohabitation with mating or immediately prior to partner preference testing failed to display a partner preference, while animals receiving AVPA immediately after cohabitation with mating and control animals receiving vehicle at all 3 time points displayed partner preferences. These results suggest that V1aR signaling is necessary for both the formation and expression of partner preferences and that these processes are dissociable.
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