A critical role for nucleus accumbens dopamine in partner-preference formation in male prairie voles

Brandon J. Aragona, Yan Liu, J. Thomas Curtis, Friedrich K. Stephan, Zuoxin Wang

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222 Scopus citations


Although the role of nucleus accumbens (NAcc) dopamine (DA) in reward learning has been extensively studied, few investigations have addressed its involvement in learning socially relevant information. Here, we have examined the involvement of NAcc DA in social attachment of the "monogamous" prairie vole (Microtus orchrogaster). We first demonstrated that DA is necessary for the formation of social attachment in male prairie voles, because administration of haloperidol blocked, whereas apomorphine induced, partner-preference formation. We then provided the first descriptions of DA neuroanatomy and tissue content in vole NAcc, and mating appeared to induce a 33% increase in DA turnover. We also showed that administration of haloperidol directly into the NAcc blocked partner preferences induced by mating and apomorphine. In addition, administration of apomorphine into the NAcc but not the caudate putamen induced partner preferences in the absence of mating. Together, our data support the hypothesis that NAcc DA is critical for pair-bond formation in male prairie voles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3483-3490
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number8
StatePublished - 15 Apr 2003



  • Apomorphine
  • Dopamine
  • Dopamine transporter
  • Haloperidol
  • Mating
  • Nucleus accumbens
  • Pair bonding
  • Tyrosine hydroxylase

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