Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Michelle L. Tomaszycki


Stress and affiliative social relationships are bi-directionally related. It is well understood that social relationships can buffer the physiological response to a stressor. Conversely, there is some evidence to suggest that stress can affect the propensity to form a pair bond. Data from humans and prairie voles, monogamous rodents, suggest that activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) in males increases attraction for females. Across species, females are understudied, but evidence from the prairie vole suggests HPA activation impairs formation of partner preference, the first step in establishing a pair bond. Across taxa there is evidence that formation and maintenance of a pair bond may also increase HPA activity in both sexes. The studies presented here explored the relationships between circulating corticosterone, neural expression of corticotropin releasing hormone and glucocorticoid receptors, social preference and pair bonding using a model species uniquely suited to studying long-term, monogamous relationships.