Previous studies have related pair-bonding in Microtus ochrogaster, the prairie vole, with plastic changes in several brain regions. However, the interactions between these socially relevant regions have yet to be described. In this study, we used resting-state magnetic resonance imaging to explore bonding behaviors and functional connectivity of brain regions previously associated with pair-bonding. Thirty-two male and female prairie voles were scanned at baseline, 24 hr, and 2 weeks after the onset of cohabitation. By using network-based statistics, we identified that the functional connectivity of a corticostriatal network predicted the onset of affiliative behavior, while another predicted the amount of social interaction during a partner preference test. Furthermore, a network with significant changes in time was revealed, also showing associations with the level of partner preference. Overall, our findings revealed the association between network-level functional connectivity changes and social bonding.
Keywords: Microtus ochrogaster; animal social networks; neuroscience; prairie vole; resting-state functional connectivity; sexual behavior; social bonding.
© 2021, López-Gutiérrez et al.