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Differences in Diffusion-Weighted Imaging and Resting-State Functional Connectivity Between Two Culturally Distinct Populations of Prairie Vole

Published:September 05, 2020DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpsc.2020.08.014

      Abstract

      Background

      We used the highly prosocial prairie vole to test the hypothesis that higher-order brain structure—microarchitecture and functional connectivity (FC)—would differ between males from populations with distinctly different levels of prosocial behavior. Specifically, we studied males from Illinois (IL), which display high levels of prosocial behavior, and first generation males from Kansas dams and IL males (KI), which display the lowest level of prosocial behavior and higher aggression. Behavioral differences between these males are associated with overexpression of estrogen receptor alpha in the medial amygdala and bed nucleus of the stria terminalis and neuropeptide expression in the paraventricular nucleus.

      Methods

      We compared apparent diffusion coefficient, fractional anisotropy, and blood oxygen level–dependent resting-state FC between males.

      Results

      IL males displayed higher apparent diffusion coefficient in regions associated with prosocial behavior, including the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, paraventricular nucleus, and anterior thalamic nuclei, while KI males showed higher apparent diffusion coefficient in the brainstem. KI males showed significantly higher fractional anisotropy than IL males in 26 brain regions, with the majority being in the brainstem reticular activating system. IL males showed more blood oxygen level–dependent resting-state FC between the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, paraventricular nucleus, and medial amygdala along with other brain regions, including the hippocampus and areas associated with social and reward networks.

      Conclusions

      Our results suggest that gray matter microarchitecture and FC may play a role the expression of prosocial behavior and that differences in other brain regions, especially the brainstem, could be involved. The differences between males suggests that this system represents a potentially valuable model system for studying emotional differences and vulnerability to stress and addiction.

      Keywords

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