3 years ago

Nucleus accumbens core medium spiny neuron electrophysiological properties and partner preference behavior in the adult male prairie vole, Microtus ochrogaster.

Jaime A Willett, Lisa A McGraw, John Meitzen, Andrea R Vogel, Ashlyn G Johnson, Heather B Patisaul
Medium spiny neurons (MSNs) in the nucleus accumbens have long been implicated in the neurobiological mechanisms that underlie numerous social and motivated behaviors as studied in rodents such as rats. Recently, the prairie vole has emerged as an important model animal for studying social behaviors, particularly regarding monogamy due to their ability to form pair bonds. However, to our knowledge, no study has assessed intrinsic vole MSN electrophysiological properties, or tested how these properties vary with the strength of the pair bond between partnered voles. Here, we performed whole-cell patch clamp recordings of MSNs in acute brain slices of the nucleus accumbens core (NAc) of adult male voles exhibiting strong and weak preferences for his respective partnered female. We first document vole MSN electrophysiological properties and provide comparison to rat MSNs. Vole MSNs demonstrated many canonical electrophysiological attributes shared across species, but exhibited notable differences in excitability compared to rat MSNs. Second, we assessed male vole partner preference behavior and tested whether MSN electrophysiological properties varied with partner preference strength. Male vole partner preference showed extensive variability. We found that decreases in mEPSC amplitude and the slope of the evoked action potential firing rate to depolarizing current injection weakly associated with increased preference for the partnered female. This suggests that excitatory synaptic strength and neuronal excitability may be decreased in MSNs in males exhibiting stronger preference for a partnered female. Overall, these data provide extensive documentation of MSN electrophysiological characteristics, and their relationship to social behavior in the prairie vole.

Publisher URL: http://doi.org/10.1152/jn.00737.2017

DOI: 10.1152/jn.00737.2017

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