Dopamine mediates testosterone-induced social reward in male Syrian hamsters.

PMID 23372017


Adolescent maturation of responses to social stimuli is essential for adult-typical sociosexual behavior. Naturally occurring developmental changes in male Syrian hamster responses to a salient social cue, female hamster vaginal secretions (VS), provide a good model system for investigating neuroendocrine mechanisms of adolescent change in social reward. Sexually naïve adult, but not juvenile, males show a conditioned place preference (CPP) to VS, indicating that VS is not rewarding before puberty. In this series of experiments, the authors examined the roles of testosterone and dopamine receptor activation in mediating the adolescent gain in positive valence of VS. Experiment 1 showed that testosterone replacement is necessary for gonadectomized adult hamsters to form a CPP to VS. Experiment 2 showed that testosterone treatment is sufficient for juvenile hamsters to form a CPP to VS, and that the dopamine receptor antagonist haloperidol blocks formation of a CPP to VS in these animals. Experiments 3 and 4 demonstrated that the disruption of VS CPP with low doses of haloperidol is the result of a reduction in the attractive properties of VS and not attributable to aversive properties of haloperidol. Together, these studies demonstrate that the unconditioned rewarding properties of a social cue necessary for successful adult sociosexual interactions come about as the result of the pubertal increase in circulating testosterone in male hamsters. Furthermore, this social reward can be prevented by dopamine receptor antagonism, indicating that hypothalamic and/or mesocorticolimbic dopaminergic circuits are targets for hormonal activation of social reward.

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