Christian J. Esquilin-Rodriguez, Lisa Hiura, Dave Protter, Gabe Chapel, Ryan Cameron, Maya Paulson, Isaiah

Elges and Zoe Donaldson.


Social monogamy is a rare behavior across mammalian species, only observed in about 5%-10% of mammals. Prairie voles are a rodent species capable of this behavior, which is why they are an optimal model to examine how pair bonding might be expressed in humans. For three decades, pair bonds have been examined through the partner preference test (PPT), which is useful for observing partner preference after pair bond formation. Due to the simplicity of the task, however, the actual motivation underlying a vole’s desire to be with its partner remains to be seen. As such, we have developed two new tasks aimed at understanding this motivation, implementing new features that will allow us to quantify the effort input by voles to be with their partners. We found that an Operant Chamber task allowed us to quantify motivation through lever presses for partner or novel vole access. Meanwhile, motivation could be represented by time spent on top of the wheel in the Wheel task.

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