Behavioral convergence in defense behaviors in pair bonded individuals correlates with neuroendocrine receptors in the medial amygdala

Behav Brain Res. 2023 Aug 24:452:114556. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2023.114556. Epub 2023 Jun 24.


Monogamous, pair-bonded animals coordinate intra-pair behavior for spatially separated challenges including territorial defense and nest attendance. Paired California mice, a monogamous, territorial and biparental species, approach intruders together or separately, but often express behavioral convergence across intruder challenges. To gain a more systems-wide perspective of potential mechanisms contributing to behavioral convergence across two conspecific intruder challenges, we conducted an exploratory study correlating behavior and receptor mRNA (Days 10 and 17 post-pairing). We examined associations between convergence variability in pair time for intruder-oriented behaviors with a pair mRNA index for oxytocin (OXTR), androgen (AR), and estrogen alpha (ERα) receptors within the medial amygdala (MeA) and the anterior olfactory nucleus (AON), brain regions associated with social behavior. An intruder behavior index revealed a bimodal distribution of intruder-related behaviors in Challenge 1 and a unimodal distribution in Challenge 2, suggesting population behavioral convergence, but no significant correlations with neuroendocrine measures. However, OXTR, AR, and ERα mRNA in the MeA were positively associated with convergence in individual intruder-related behaviors, suggesting multiple mechanisms may influence convergence. Mice could also occupy the nest during intruder challenges and convergence in nest attendance was positively correlated with MeA OXTR. At an individual level, nest attendance was positively associated with MeA ERα. Vocalizations were positively associated with AR and ERα mRNA. No positive associations were found in the AON. Overall, neuroendocrine receptors were implicated in convergence of a monogamous pair's defense behavior, highlighting the potential importance of the MeA as part of a circuit underlying convergence.

Keywords: Aggression; Androgen; Cooperation; Estrogen; Medial amygdala; Oxytocin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Corticomedial Nuclear Complex* / metabolism
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha* / metabolism
  • Oxytocin
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Oxytocin / genetics
  • Social Behavior


  • Estrogen Receptor alpha
  • Oxytocin
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Oxytocin