TitleVasotocin stimulates appetitive responses to the visual and pheromonal stimuli used by male roughskin newts during courtship
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2000
AuthorsThompson, RR, Moore, FL
JournalHormones and Behavior
Type of ArticleJournal Article

It is now well established that vasotocin (AVT) and its mammalian homologue vasopressin influence various social behaviors in vertebrates, but less is known about the mechanisms through which these peptides modulate behavior. In male roughskin newts, Taricha granulosa, AVT stimulates a courtship behavior, amplectic clasping. Three general explanations for how AVT affects male courtship behavior have been considered: by enhancing a central state of sexual motivation, by affecting sensorimotor integration mechanisms in individual sensory modalities, or by influencing a nonspecific state of attention, arousal, or anxiety. AVT administration enhanced appetitive responses to visual and olfactory sexual stimuli, as would be expected if AVT affects a state of sexual motivation that affects behavioral responses to sexual stimuli regardless of the sensory modality in which they are processed. However, AVT selectively enhanced responses to female olfactory stimuli (sex pheromones), but similarly enhanced responses to female and food-related visual stimuli (worms), thus questioning the utility of such a motivational mechanism, as responses to female stimuli were not selectively enhanced in all sensory modalities. We therefore propose that exogenous AVT independently influences olfactory processes associated with orientation/attraction toward a female sex pheromone and visual processes associated with orientation/attraction toward a visual feature common to females and worms. In further experiments AVT administration failed to stimulate feeding behavior but did decrease locomotor activity. Thus, AVT does not stimulate courtship behavior in this species by enhancing the animals' general state of attention or by decreasing general anxiety, as responses to nonsexual, attractive stimuli were not uniformly enhanced, nor by stimulating general arousal, as activity levels did not increase. Rather, the data support the conclusion that AVT affects courtship by influencing specific sensorimotor processes associated with behavioral responses to individual releasing stimuli, which suggests a mechanistic framework for understanding socially motivated behavior is this species. (C) 2000 Academic Press.

URL<Go to ISI>://WOS:000089317100001