Vole mates: gene makes males more receptive.
© L. Pitkow et al.
Spells and incantations step aside: scientists have found a genetic elixir of love. It makes males more faithful to females and more friendly to fellow males. It could also shed light on bonding disorders such as autism.
Larry Young of Emory University in Georgia and colleagues used a virus to deliver a gene straight to the part of voles’ brains responsible for rewards and addiction, the ventral pallidum. The gene made the animals’ brains more receptive to the hormone vasopressin1.
"Something about having more vasopressin receptors makes interacting with another individual more rewarding," says Young. The ventral pallidum, at the bottom front of vole and human brains, is believed to reinforce pleasurable experiences.
Addicted to love
Human brain-imaging research has implicated the ventral pallidum in romantic love and in drug addiction. It’s not surprising that the same region might be responsible for both, Young says: "People have always thought of love as an addiction."
Experiments show that animals in cages with striped walls injected with cocaine into their ventral pallidum seek out striped walls. They associate the wall pattern with the euphoria of the drug, Young says.
"Perhaps pair bonding is a similar thing," he suggests. "When a vole mates with a female, vasopressin is released in his brain, which stimulates the ventral pallidum. He gets a reward, and associates it with that female."
Vasopressin may also be associated with anxiety. Voles given the vasopressin receptor gene in the ventral pallidum were more anxious than normal: they ventured out into the open less often.
"This helps explain something we already know: that attachments often happen after a stressful experience," says Sue Carter of the University of Illinois, Chicago, who specializes in rodent and human hormones.
"Hormones released when animals are stressed could pave the way for new relationships," she says. "Animals form social bonds when they need them."
ERICA KLARREICH | Nature News Service
Molecular doorstop could be key to new tuberculosis drugs
20.03.2018 | Rockefeller University
Modified biomaterials self-assemble on temperature cues
20.03.2018 | Duke University
For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.
In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...
Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...
On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...
The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...
At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.
When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...
19.03.2018 | Event News
16.03.2018 | Event News
13.03.2018 | Event News
20.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
20.03.2018 | Life Sciences
20.03.2018 | Life Sciences