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Mating increases male's interest in other females: A cognitive study in socially monogamous prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster)

Behavioural Processes
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.beproc.2011.08.010
  • Social Monogamy
  • Social Cognition
  • Mating Tactics
  • Cingulate Cortex
  • Retrosplenial Cortex


Abstract To determine whether socio-sexual interactions with females influence the male prairie vole's cognitive processing, three groups of males were simultaneously exposed to sensory stimuli of a control and a focal female then tested for their behavioral and neuronal responsiveness to the female cues. From the control female, all males received distal cues. From the focal female, the Unmated males received distal cues, the Unmated-Contact males received all cues but did not mate with her, and the Mated-Contact males received all cues and mated with her. Males were tested for their attentiveness to enclosures holding each female and for their memory of the females’ previous location. Males’ brains were then examined to localize activated regions following exposure to the odor of familiar versus unfamiliar focal females. The Mated-Contact males spent more time in the cage of the control female attending to her enclosure than in the cage of the focal female. Exposure to odors of unfamiliar focal females activated the cingulate cortex of Unmated-Contact males. There was a negative correlation between the level of neuronal activation in the retrosplenial cortex of males that were exposed to the odors of a familiar focal female and their attentiveness to the enclosure of the control female. The data suggest that the effect of socio-sexual interactions with a female on males’ cognition depends on the type of sensory signals males receive from females and how individual males perceive those signals.

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