Richard G. Petty, MD

Prairie Voles Again!

I do hope that we are all properly appreciative of the scientific contribution of these cute little creatures. I mentioned them in one of my Valentine’s Day posts, but you will find a picture and an accompanying story here.

Thomas Insel’s group at the National Institute of Mental Heath in Bethesda have spent years working on pair formation and partner preference in these little fur balls.

It seems that pouring dopamine into a region of their brains known as the nucleus accumbens makes male prairie voles seek out girlfriends. There are at least seven major subgroups of dopamine receptors. But in these little creatures D2 receptors are involved in approach behavior that is associated with the formation of a pair-bond, and D1 receptors maintain the bond. While forming a relationship the little vole’s brain actually changes.

I am always a bit worried about trying to read too much into these experiments, because human behavior really is a great deal more complicated. But I have a couple of thoughts:

1. Dopamine receptors are proteins, so they are products of genes that get switched on by the formation of a relationship. Might some people have a genetic reason for having difficulties in relationship formation, and how would that play with environmental factors? You may well know some people who seem cold and uninterested in relationships, and indeed, there are some personality disorders in which people have chronic difficulties in forming relationships. Yet certain types of psychological therapy can help them.

2. Some antipsychotic medications block D2 receptors. Is that a further explanation for the relationship difficulties of some people receiving these medicines?

3. I think that we should thank the Prairie Vole Kingdom for their help…..

Technorati tags: , , ,

About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!

logo logo logo logo logo logo