Project Detail
Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) logo
Office of Autism Research Coordination (OARC) logo

Neural mechanisms of social cognition and bonding  

Research on the neural mechanisms of social behavior has particular relevance for autism. These mechanisms are now being revealed in voles, which constitute a promising model for understanding social cognition because of differences between vole species. For example, prairie voles are highly social and are socially monogamous, while meadow voles and montane voles are polygamous and solitary. Understanding the differences between these species can eventually pinpoint the neural circuits and mechanisms governing social behavior. Previous research in Dr. Young's lab using this model has shown that certain hormones and neuropeptides help to promote social bond formation. This project is based on the hypothesis that the neuropeptide oxytocin facilitates social learning through interactions with the neurotransmitters dopamine and glutamate. Together they may impact the molecular pathways involved in synaptic plasticity and learning and memory. Dr. Young's fellow will conduct experiments designed to understand the interaction between oxytocin and glutamate, which will include testing whether clinically available glutamatergic compounds can enhance social cognition in the prairie vole. Behavioral pharmacology and molecular biology techniques will be used, and these two approaches promise to elucidate molecular mechanisms of social learning. Project Status


Funder National Institutes of Health
Fiscal Year Funding $43,862.00
Current Award Period 2008-2011
Project Number 5P51RR000165-50
Principal Investigator Young, Larry
Received ARRA Funding? No
Strategic Plan Question Question 4: Which Treatments And Interventions Will Help? (Treatments)
Subcategory Model Systems/Therapeutic Targets
Strategic Plan Objective Green dot: Objective has greater than or equal to the recommended funding. 4SB. Standardize and validate at least 20 model systems (e.g., cellular and/or animal) that replicate features of ASD and will allow identification of specific molecular targets or neural circuits amenable to existing or new interventions by 2012. IACC Recommended Budget: $75,000,000 over 5 years.
Federal or Private? Federal
Institution Emory University
State/Country Georgia
Web Link 1 Neural mechanisms of social cognition and bonding (External web link)
Web Link 2 No URL available.
Web Link 3 No URL available.
History/Related Projects Neural mechanisms of social cognition and bonding | $43,907.00 | 2009 | 5P51RR000165-49
Neural mechanisms of social cognition and bonding - NIH | $28,536.00 | 2008 | P51RR000165-48