Developmental effects of vasotocin and nonapeptide receptors on early social attachment and affiliative behavior in the zebra finch

Graphical Abstract

Nicole M. Baran, Nathan C. Sklar, & Elizabeth Adkins Regan
Hormones and Behavior
Vol. 78 (February 2016), pp. 20-31

Abstract: Zebra finches demonstrate selective affiliation between juvenile offspring and parents, which, like affiliation between pair partners, is characterized by proximity, vocal communication and contact behaviors. This experiment tested the hypothesis that the nonapeptide arginine vasotocin (AVT, avian homologue of vasopressin) and nonapeptide receptors play a role prior to fledging in the development of affiliative behavior. Zebra finch hatchlings of both sexes received daily intracranial injections (post-hatch days 2–8) of either AVT, Manning Compound (MC, a potent V1a receptor antagonist) or saline (vehicle control). The social development of both sexes was assessed by measuring responsiveness to isolation from the family and subsequent reunion with the male parent after fledging. In addition, we assessed the changes in affiliation with the parents, unfamiliar males, and unfamiliar females each week throughout juvenile development. Compared to controls, MC subjects showed decreased attachment to the parents and MC males did not show the normal increase in affiliative interest in opposite sex individuals as they reached reproductive maturity. In contrast, AVT subjects showed a sustained affiliative interest in parents throughout development, and males showed increased interest in opposite sex conspecifics as they matured. These results provide the first evidence suggesting that AVT and nonapeptide receptors play organizational roles in social development in a bird.

Baran, N.M., Sklar, N.C., & Adkins-Regan, E. (2016) Developmental effects of vasotocin and nonapeptide receptors on early social attachment and affiliative behavior in the zebra finch. Hormones & Behavior. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0018506X15301021

Nicole M. Baran