Nancy F. Day, David Saxon, Anastasia Robbins, Lily Harris, Emily Nee, Naomi Shroff-Mehta, Kaeley Stout, Julia Sun, Natalie Lillie, Mara Burns, Clio Korn, and Melissa J. Coleman
The evolutionary conservation of neural mechanisms for forming and maintaining pair bonds is unclear. Oxytocin, vasopressin and dopamine (DA) transmitter systems have been shown to be important in pair-bond formation and maintenance in several vertebrate species. We examined the role of dopamine in formation of song preference in zebra finches, a monogamous bird. Male courtship song is an honest signal of sexual fitness; thus, we measured female song preference to evaluate the role of DA in mate selection and pair-bond formation, using an operant conditioning paradigm. We found that DA acting through the D2 receptor, but not the D1 receptor, can induce a song preference in unpaired female finches and that blocking the D2 receptor abolished song preference in paired females. These results suggest that similar neural mechanisms for pair-bond formation are evolutionarily conserved in rodents and birds.