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Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences


All mammals begin life in social groups, but for some species, social relationships persist and develop throughout the course of an individual’s life. Research in multiple rodent species provides evidence of relatively conserved circuitry underlying social behaviors and processes such as social recognition and memory, social reward, and social approach/avoidance. Species exhibiting different complex social behaviors and social systems (such as social monogamy or familiarity preferences) can be characterized in part by when and how they display specific social behaviors. Prairie and meadow voles are closely related species that exhibit similarly selective peer preferences but different mating systems, aiding direct comparison of the mechanisms underlying affiliative behavior. This chapter draws on research in voles as well as other rodents to explore the mechanisms involved in individual social behavior processes, as well as specific complex social patterns. Contrasts between vole species exemplify how the laboratory study of diverse species improves our understanding of the mechanisms underlying social behavior. We identify several additional rodent species whose interesting social structures and available ecological and behavioral field data make them good candidates for study. New techniques and integration across laboratory and field settings will provide exciting opportunities for future mechanistic work in non-model species.


social behavior, group living, sociality, neuroendocrinology, neural circuits, model species, prairie vole, meadow vole



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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Licensed to Smith College and distributed CC-BY under the Smith College Faculty Open Access Policy.


Peer reviewed accepted manuscript.



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