Date of Award


Document type


Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Neuroscience and Behavior

First Advisor

Geert J. de Vries

Subject Categories

Behavior and Behavior Mechanisms | Neurology


The nine amino acid peptide vasopressin acts as a neurohormone in the periphery and a neurotransmitter/neuromodulator in the central nervous system. Historically, research on vasopressin neurons and their projections to the pituitary has helped lay the groundwork for our understanding of peptidergic neurotransmission. Currently, our research on central vasopressin projections is driving a revolution in our understanding of social behavior. Vasopressin affects a number of social behaviors from social memory to aggression to affiliative behavior, such as pair-bonding. Further, with the addition of more and more transgenic mouse models of disease states, anxiety and depression related disorders, and social behavior dysfunction, it is important now more than ever to have a clear knowledge of the mouse vasopressin system, which derives from a number of distinct nuclei within the brain. Here, I map out vasopressin immunoreactivity in the mouse brain, and delineate the subset of brain regions with gonadal steroid hormone-dependent vasopressin immunoreactivity. Such projections are thought to derive from the bed nuclei of the stria terminalis and medial amygdala in the telencephalon. Finally, based on data from mice with lesions of the suprachiasmatic nucleus, I outline the subset of regions that likely receive vasopressin from this source. Our research on the anatomy of the vasopressin system of mice and our attempts to delineate the site of origin of the many vasopressin fibers found throughout the brain suggest that a significant amount of the vasopressin innervation deriving from cells in the bed nuclei of the stria terminalis and medial amygdala project to areas in the midbrain involved in serotonin and dopamine transmission, such as the dorsal raphe and ventral tegmental area. These transmitter systems play a crucial role in the control of anxiety and depression levels as well as motivated behavior and emotional regulation. Our results strongly suggest that a direct link exists between these systems, and future plans include an examination of this possibility. It is our hope that this work will further our understanding of the role of vasopressin and other transmitter systems in the regulation of social behaviors.