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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Adrenocorticoid hormones and the development and expression of mammalian monogamy.

Based on research with prairie voles, we hypothesize that the unusual patterns of reproduction and social behavior associated with mammalian monogamy may arise as a consequence of normal developmental exposure to high levels of glucocorticoids and/or other hormones of the HPA axis. Increased HPA activity could functionally inhibit some of the masculinizing processes expected during the perinatal period. We hypothesize that the unique behavioral, physiological, and anatomical changes associated with monogamy may reflect the adaptive consequences of reduced exposure to the masculinizing actions of HPG hormones, such as testosterone. Reproductively naive, unpaired adult prairie voles also show unusual patterns of adrenal activity, including a marked decline in corticosterone levels within minutes following exposure to novel animals of the opposite sex. In females, this decline in corticosterone may contribute to pair bonding, since corticosterone injections inhibit, and adrenalectomy is associated with a facilitation of pair bond formation. In males, corticosterone injections facilitate pair bonding and adrenalectomy has the opposite effect. In animals from established social pairs corticosterone levels also fluctuate according to the social environment of the animal; the absence of a familiar partner is associated with increased corticosterone secretion, and in the presence of the familiar partner corticosterone levels tend to decline. Prairie voles may offer a valuable source of information regarding the behavioral, anatomical, and physiological consequences of long-term and short-term exposure to high levels of adrenal activity in the absence of pathology.[1]


  1. Adrenocorticoid hormones and the development and expression of mammalian monogamy. Carter, C.S., DeVries, A.C., Taymans, S.E., Roberts, R.L., Williams, J.R., Chrousos, G.P. Ann. N. Y. Acad. Sci. (1995) [Pubmed]
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