Sensitive periods, vasotocin-family peptides, and the evolution and development of social behavior.

A female zebra finch flies at Fowler Gap Research Station, New South Wales, Australia Photo credit: Nicole M. Baran

A female zebra finch flies at Fowler Gap Research Station, New South Wales, Australia Photo credit: Nicole M. Baran

Nicole M. Baran
Frontiers in Endocrinology
Research Topic: The Vasopressin System and Behavior
Vol. 8, No. 189 (August 2017)

Abstract: Nonapeptides, by modulating the activity of neural circuits in specific social contexts, provide an important mechanism underlying the evolution of diverse behavioral phenotypes across vertebrate taxa. Vasotocin-family nonapeptides, in particular, have been found to be involved in behavioral plasticity and diversity in social behavior, including seasonal variation, sexual dimorphism, and species differences. Although nonapeptides have been the focus of a great deal of research over the last several decades, the vast majority of this work has focused on adults. However, behavioral diversity may also be explained by the ways in which these peptides shape neural circuits and influence social processes during development. In this review, I synthesize comparative work on vasotocin-family peptides during development and classic work on early forms of social learning in developmental psychobiology. I also summarize recent work demonstrating that early life manipulations of the nonapeptide system alter attachment, affiliation, and vocal learning in zebra finches. I thus hypothesize that vasotocin-family peptides are involved in the evolution of social behaviors through their influence on learning during sensitive periods in social development.

Baran, N.M. (2017) Sensitive periods, vasotocin-family peptides, and the evolution and development of social behavior. Frontiers in Endocrinology. Research Topic: The Vasopressin System and Behavior. http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fendo.2017.00189/full

Nicole M. Baran