Voles and You

VOLES AND YOU….Fascinating stuff:

Scientists working with a rat-like animal called a vole have found that promiscuous males can be reprogrammed into monogamous partners by introducing a single gene into a specific part of their brains.

….The difference, it turns out, is a receptor for the hormone vasopressin. Prairie voles have such receptors in a part of the brain known as the ventral pallidum. Meadow voles do not.

To make promiscuous male meadow voles behave like their loyal prairie cousins, the scientists used a common gene-therapy technique. They injected the animals’ forebrains with a harmless virus carrying the gene responsible for expressing the receptors.

The effects of learning and culture are so strong in humans that this result isn’t necessarily meaningful for us even though we share vasopressin receptors similar to the voles’. Still, there’s no question that behavior has biochemical roots as well as cultural roots, and it’s fascinating that a relatively complex behavior like this can be changed by a single gene. We are, perhaps, not quite so complex and inscrutable as we sometimes like to think.