Methamphetamine (MA) abuse has been linked to violence, risk-taking behaviors, decreased sexual inhibition, and criminal activity. It is important to understand mechanisms underlying these drug effects for prevention and treatment of MA-associated social problems. Previous studies have demonstrated that experimenter-administered amphetamine inhibits pair bonding and increases aggression in monogamous prairie voles. It is not currently known whether similar effects on social behaviors would be obtained under conditions during which the drug is voluntarily (actively) administered. The current study investigated whether MA drinking affects pair bonding and what neurocircuits are engaged. In Experiment 1, we exposed male and female voles to 4 days each of 20 and 40 mg/L MA under a continuous 2-bottle choice (2BC) procedure. Animals were housed either singly or in mesh-divided cages with a social partner. Voles consumed MA in a drinking solution, but MA drinking was not affected by either sex or housing condition. In Experiment 2, we investigated whether MA drinking disrupts social bonding by measuring aggression and partner preference formation following three consecutive days of 18-hour/day access to 100 mg/L MA in a 2BC procedure. Although aggression toward a novel opposite-sex animal was not affected by MA exposure, partner preference was inhibited in MA drinking animals. Experiment 3 examined whether alterations in hypothalamic neuropeptides provide a potential explanation for the inhibition of partner preference observed in Experiment 2. MA drinking led to significant decreases in oxytocin, but not vasopressin, in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus. These experiments are the first investigation into how voluntary preexposure to MA affects the development of social attachment in a socially monogamous species and identify potential neural circuits involved in these effects.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)