Mario Gil, Ngoc-Thao Nguyen, Mark McDonald and H. Elliott Albers Social reward: interactions with social status, social communication, aggression, and associated neural activation in the ventral tegmental area European Journal of Neuroscience 38
Male Syrian hamsters develop a conditioned place preference (CPP) for social interactions. However, as shown in Figs A & B, social status increases reward value. That is, the effects of conditioning on the development of a CPP are significantly greater for dominant males compared to their subordinate partners. Direct social interactions induce high levels of Fos-ir in the VTA when compared to less direct forms of social contact (i.e., exposure to a caged stimulus hamster) or no social stimulus (Figs C & D). In addition, high levels of neural activation in the VTA are associated with high levels of aggression and social dominance behaviors, and social experience modulates the response of the VTA to novel social stimuli. Therefore, our data suggest that the mesolimbic reward system may play a role in social reward.
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