Date of Award

11-11-2008

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Aras Petrulis - Chair

Second Advisor

Anne Murphy

Third Advisor

Elliott Albers

Abstract

In Syrian hamsters, social behavior is mediated exclusively by chemosensory cues and circulating gonadal steroid hormones. Where these two signals are processed in the brain is unknown, but the posterior bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (pBNST) has been suggested as a candidate site. Therefore, we tested male hamsters’ preference for opposite-sex odors following excitotoxic lesions of the pBNST. Lesions of the pBNST (pBNST-X) eliminated male hamsters’ preference for opposite-sex odors. Furthermore, pBNST-X males spent significantly less time investigating female odors than clean odors and significantly less time investigating female odors than control males did. Lesions of the pBNST did not change male hamsters’ investigation of male odors. The deficits observed in pBNST-X males were not due to a failure to discriminate between odors, as pBNST-X males were able to distinguish between odors. Together, these data suggest the pBNST is critical for opposite-sex odor preference in male hamsters.

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