Our lab studies the brain basis of behavior, integrating ecological, evolutionary and neuroscience perspectives in this work. Our primary research is focused on the neurobiological mechanisms supporting "sociality", a.k.a. life in social groups—using diverse species to assess the universality of specific underlying pathways.
Neural substrates of peer relationshipsWhat determines whether an organism is solitary or lives in social groups? While decades of research have explored the neurobiology of parental behavior and monogamy, little is known about the biological mechanisms that promote sociality. Our work focuses on the pathways that support affiliation between peers.
Meadow voles are our laboratory model of choice because they undergo a predictable transition in social behavior in the field and in the lab. Meadow vole females are territorial during the summer reproductive season, but nest in social groups in the winter. The seasonal transition can be recapitulated in the lab by changing photoperiods, allowing us to explore the neurotransmitters, neuropeptides, hormones, and circuits mediating this social transition. We also study same-sex (peer) affiliation in prairie voles (left) to gain an understanding of how peer relationships are regulated in a monogamous species.