These mutant prairie voles were observed in their behavioral traits to analyse the effects, a lack of oxytocin can have on social and behavioral patterns. However, these prairie voles still exhibited signs of social bonding, usually thought to be dependent on oxytocin, namely pair bonding and parental care.
Oxytocin is a hormone produced by the brain and is known to be responsible for forming social and emotional bonds in humans, prairie voles, and other species. Oxytocin is also known as “the love hormone.”
Researchers have used prairie voles in their studies to determine the role of oxytocin because these rodents are known to be monogamous.
Partner voles usually spend most of their time with their partner and show a distinct preference for each other over other voles. This bonding behavior pattern is unique only to prairie voles. Researchers used the genetic CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) technology to produce prairie voles that lacked the oxytocin receptors
Researchers were surprised to see that the results did not show much of a difference in social and behavioral patterns between non mutant and mutant prairie voles.
Mutant parents spent the majority of their time in the nest, together with their partners, while the mothers were seen nestles with their pups
However, voles also exhibited aggressive behavior towards unfamiliar members of the opposite sex, indicating rejection of other potential mates.
Additionally, the pups born to mutant mothers weighed significantly less at than pups born to normal mothers, which may pertain to a potential issue with milk ejection or deficient nursing pattern.
More research to analyse oxytocin and its effect are necessary to understand what influences social and behavioral patterns in human and mice.