|Chronic Social & Environmental Stressors Impair Pair-Bonding and Alter Parental Behavior in Prairie Voles|
|W. Tang Watanasriyakul, Marigny C. Normann, Elizabeth Viveros, Miranda Cox, Angela J. Grippo. Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL, United States
Loneliness and daily life stress may impair interpersonal relationships in partners or families. Prairie voles display similar social characteristics to humans, such as social monogamy and biparental care, providing a unique model to study social relationships. Adult prairie voles were exposed to a combination of social isolation and daily mild stressors for 4 weeks (v. unstressed and paired controls). Subsequently, male and female voles were paired according to their housing condition and allowed to reproduce. Through homecage observations, chronically stressed couples exhibited significantly more aggressive behaviors towards each other and spent marginally less time in direct physical contact. During a parental test, chronically stressed mothers displayed higher levels of grooming pups, while chronically stressed fathers displayed lower levels of grooming pups (v. unstressed animals of the same sex). Stressed parents also cared for pups together in the nest, while unstressed parents displayed independent parental behavior. These preliminary data provide a foundation for investigating neural mechanisms (e.g., oxytocin) underlying the interactions of stress and social behavior.