Species-typical group size differentially influences social reward neural circuitry during nonreproductive social interactions

Jose A. Gonzalez Abreu, Ashley E. Rosenberg, Brandon A. Fricker, Kelly J. Wallace, Ashley W. Seifert, Aubrey M. Kelly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


We investigated whether nonreproductive social interactions may be rewarding for colonial but not non-colonial species. We found that the colonial spiny mouse (Acomys cahirinus) is significantly more gregarious, more prosocial, and less aggressive than its non-colonial relative, the Mongolian gerbil (Meriones unguiculatus). In an immediate-early gene study, we examined oxytocin (OT) and tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) neural responses to interactions with a novel, same-sex conspecific or a novel object. The paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (PVN) OT cell group was more responsive to interactions with a conspecific compared to a novel object in both species. However, the ventral tegmental area (VTA) TH cell group showed differential responses only in spiny mice. Further, PVN OT and VTA TH neural responses positively correlated in spiny mice, suggesting functional connectivity. These results suggest that colonial species may have evolved neural mechanisms associated with reward in novel, nonreproductive social contexts to promote large group-living.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104230
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 20 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to acknowledge funding from the Klingenstein-Simons Foundation (Fellowship Award in Neuroscience to AMK ), the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases ( R01AR070313 to AWS ), and the National Science Foundation ( IOS-1353713 to AWS ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s)


  • Biological sciences
  • Cellular neuroscience
  • Ethology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'Species-typical group size differentially influences social reward neural circuitry during nonreproductive social interactions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this