Drinking alcohol has sex-dependent effects on pair bond formation in prairie voles

Allison M.J. Anacker, Todd H. Ahern, Caroline M. Hostetler, Brett D. Dufour, Monique L. Smith, Davelle L. Cocking, Ju Li, Larry J. Young, Jennifer M. Loftis, Andrey E. Ryabinin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Alcohol use and abuse profoundly influences a variety of behaviors, including social interactions. In some cases, it erodes social relationships; in others, it facilitates sociality. Here, we show that voluntary alcohol consumption can inhibit male partner preference (PP) formation (a laboratory proxy for pair bonding) in socially monogamous prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster). Conversely, female PP is not inhibited, and may be facilitated by alcohol. Behavior and neurochemical analysis suggests that the effects of alcohol on social bonding are mediated by neural mechanisms regulating pair bond formation and not alcohol's effects on mating, locomotor, or aggressive behaviors. Several neuropeptide systems involved in the regulation of social behavior (especially neuropeptide Y and corticotropin-releasing factor) are modulated by alcohol drinking during cohabitation. These findings provide the first evidence to our knowledge that alcohol has a direct impact on the neural systems involved in social bonding in a sexspecific manner, providing an opportunity to explore the mechanisms by which alcohol affects social relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6052-6057
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number16
StatePublished - Apr 22 2014


  • Anxiety
  • Ethanol
  • Oxytocin
  • Substance use
  • Vasopressin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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