Male parental care is an important social behavior for several mammalian species. Psychosocial stress is usually found to inhibit maternal behavior, but effects on paternal behavior have been less consistent. We tested the effects of social defeat stress on pair bond formation and paternal behavior in the monogamous California mouse (Peromyscus californicus). Social defeat reduced time spent in a chamber with a stranger female during a partner preference test conducted 24h after pairing, but increased latency to the first litter. In 10min partner preference tests conducted after the birth of pups, both control and stressed males exhibited selective aggression towards stranger females. Unlike prairie voles, side by side contact was not observed in either partner preference test. Stressed male California mice engaged in more paternal behavior than controls and had reduced anxiety-like responses in the open-field test. Defeat stress enhanced prodynorphin and KOR expression in the medial preoptic area (MPOA) but not PVN. Increased KOR signaling has been linked to increased selective aggression in prairie voles. Together the results show that defeat stress enhances behaviors related to parental care and pair bonding in male California mice.
Hormones and Behavior – Elsevier
Published: Feb 1, 2018
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