Dr. Zuoxin  Wang

B343 PDB
Florida State University
Department of Psychology
1107 W. Call Street
Tallahassee, FL 32306-4301
(850) 644-5057

University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Lab Website

Associate Faculty
  Dr. Yan  Liu Dr. Yan Liu
B232 PDB
(850) 645-8942

Postdoctoral Associates
  Dr. Ping  Sun Dr. Ping Sun
(850) 644-3076

Graduate Students
  Meghan  Donovan Meghan Donovan
(850) 645-5615

  Brennan  Paedae Brennan Paedae
C448 PDB
(850) 645-8716

  Manal  Tabbaa Manal Tabbaa
C448 PDB
(850) 645-8716

Lab Technicians
  Sarah  Huth Sarah Huth
C471 PDB
(850) 645-5615

Dr. Zuoxin Wang

Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience

Dr. Zuoxin Wang is currently accepting new graduate students for Fall 2016

Research Interest

Neurobiology of Social Attachment

The major emphasis of our research has been the neurobiology of social attachment in mammals. Sexual attraction and the selective social attachments that often follow are two of the most powerful driving forces of human behavior. There is little doubt that the ability to form intense social attachments - or pair bonds - with a mate has a biological architecture with definable molecular and neural mechanisms. Our laboratory uses the monogamous prairie vole (Microtus ochrogaster) as a model system to study the neuronal and hormonal mechanisms underlying social attachment because this rodent species exhibits high levels of mating-induced pair bonding. Our earlier work, along with the work of others, demonstrated that the neuropeptides vasopressin and oxytocin in particular brain areas play important roles in pair bond formation of male and female prairie voles. Our recent work has been focused on dopamine, a neurochemical that is released during both natural and drug rewards and that plays an important role in learning and memory. We have demonstrated that dopamine is released during mating in the nucleus accumbens (NAcc), an area which contains dopamine terminals and different types of dopamine receptors in voles. We have shown that, in the NAcc, dopamine differentially mediates formation and maintenance of pair bonding behavior in a receptor-specific manner. Further, we have demonstrated that dopamine and oxytocin interact in NAcc in the regulation of pair bonding. Our current efforts are focused on the examination of intracellular mechanisms underlying receptor-specific dopamine effects and dopamine interactions with oxytocin/vasopressin in the regulation of pair bonding.

Environmental and Hormonal Regulation of Adult Neurogenesis

Although recent studies have amply demonstrated that neurogenesis occurs continuously throughout life in certain brain areas of adult vertebrates, including rodents, non-human primates, and humans, the factors that influence and are functionally important for this process remain largely unexplored. Because manipulations of the social environment have profound effects on physiology and behaviors of the prairie vole, we have used this model system to study the effects of environmental and hormonal manipulation on adult neurogenesis. We have demonstrated that in female prairie voles, mating and experience with a male facilitate, whereas social isolation inhibits, neurogenesis in selected brain areas. We have also found that the gonadal steroid hormone, estrogen, differently regulates neurogenesis in selected brain areas of females between monogamous and non-monogamous voles. Further, in male voles, we have found that gonadal steroid hormones, including testosterone and estrogen, may act on estrogen-receptor mediated mechanisms in the regulation of locally proliferated cells in the amygdala - a brain area implicated in social behaviors. Our current efforts are focused on the interactions between gonadal steroid hormones and other neurochemicals in the regulation of adult neurogenesis, and on the functional significance of new neurons in social behaviors.

Social and Drug Reward Interactions and Underlying Mechanisms

Our newest line of research is to develop the prairie vole model for the study of social and drug reward interactions and their underlying mechanisms. As noted above, we have demonstrated that NAcc dopamine regulates prairie vole pair bonding behavior. Interestingly, dopamine regulation of pair bonding appears to be very similar to dopamine regulation of drug seeking behavior. Because pair bonding and drug reward are regulated by very similar neural mechanisms, and because both result in enduring changes in behavior, we hypothesized that addiction to drugs of abuse and pair bonding may act on the same brain-reward circuitry, and that the two may interact with each other. The prairie vole is the perfect animal model to test this hypothesis. Our recent data have shown that prairie voles display amphetamine-induced conditioned place preferences (CPP), suggesting that amphetamine is rewarding in voles as in other species of rodents. Our current efforts are focused on examining changes in brain-reward dopamine circuitry after amphetamine treatment, and on comparing such changes with those induced by pair bonding.

Current Research

  • Receptor-specific mechanisms underlying dopamine regulation of pair bonding
  • Neurochemical interactions in the regulation of pair bonding behavior
  • Social environment and gonadal steroid regulation of adult neurogenesis in voles
  • Amphetamine, dopamine, and conditioned place preference in voles
  • Dopamine regulation of social and drug reward interactions

Selected Recent Publications

Liu Y, Lieberwirth C, Jia X, Curtis JT, Meredith M, Wang ZX. Chemosensory cues affect amygdaloid neurogenesis and behaviors in the socially monogamous prairie voles.. Eur. J. Neurosci. 39(10):1632-41. (2014)
Young KA, Liu Y, Gobrogge KL, Dietz, DM, Wang H, Kabbaj, M, Wang ZX. Amphetamine alters behavior and mesocorticolimbic dopamine receptor expression in the monogamous female prairie vole. Brain Res. 1367:213-222. (2011) PDF
Liu Y, Young KA, Curtis TC, Aragona B, and Wang ZX. Social bonding decreases the rewarding properties of amphetamine through a dopamine D1 receptor mediated mechanism. J Neurosci. 31:7960-7966. (2011) PDF
Young KA, Gobrogge KL, Liu Y, Wang ZX. The neurobiology of pair bonding: insights from a socially monogamous rodent. Front. Neuroendocrin. 32:53-69. (2011) PDF
Young KA, Gobrogge KL, Wang ZX. The role of mesolimbic dopamine in regulating interactions between drugs of abuse and social behavior. Neurosci. Biobehav. Rev. 35:498-515. (2011) PDF
Liu Y, Aragona BJ, Young KA, Dietz DM, Kabbaj M, Mazei-Robison M, Nestler EJ, and Wang ZX. Nucleus accumbens dopamine mediates amphetamine-induced impairment of social bonding in a monogamous rodent species. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 107(3):1217-1222. (2010) PDF
Gobrogge K, Liu Y, Young LJ, and Wang ZX. Anterior hypothalamic vasopressin regulates pair bonding- and drug-induced aggression in a monogamous rodent. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 106:19144-19149. (2009) PDF
Fowler CF, Liu Y, and Wang ZX. Estrogen and adult neurogenesis in the amygdala and hypothalamus. Brain Res Rev. 57:342-351. (2008) PDF
Aragona BJ and Wang ZX. Opposing regulation of pair bond formation by cAMP signaling within the nucleus accumbens shell. J Neurosci. 27:13352-13356. (2007) PDF
Curtis JT and Wang ZX. Amphetamine effects in microtine rodents: a comparative study using monogamous and promiscuous vole species. Neuroscience. 148:857-866. (2007) PDF
Gobrogge KL, Liu Y, Jia X and Wang ZX. Anterior hypothalamic neural activation and neurochemical association with aggression in pair bonded male prairie voles. J Comp Neurol. 502:1109-1122. (2007) PDF
Aragona BJ, Liu Y, Yu J, Curtis TJ, Detwiler J, Insel TR and Wang ZX. Nucleus accumbens dopamine differentially mediates formation and maintenance of monogamous pair bonds. Nature Neurosci. 9:133-139. (2006) PDF
Curtis JT and Wang ZX. Glucocorticoid receptor involvement in pair bonding in female prairie voles: The effects of acute blockade and interactions with central dopamine reward systems. Neuroscience. 134:369-76. (2005) PDF
Fowler CD, Johnson F, and Wang ZX. Estrogen regulation of cell proliferation and distribution of estrogen receptor-alpha in the brains of adult female prairie and meadow voles. J Comp Neurol. 489:166-179. (2005) PDF
Lim MM, Wang ZX, Olazabal DE, Ren X, Terwilliger EF, and Young LJ. Enhanced partner preference in a promiscuous species by manipulating the expression of a single gene. Nature. 429:754-757. (2004) PDF
Young LJ and Wang ZX. The neurobiology of pair bonding. Nature Neurosci. 7:1048-1054. (2004) PDF
Liu Y and Wang ZX. Nucleus accumbens oxytocin and dopamine interact to regulate pair bond formation in female prairie voles. Neuroscience. 121:537-544. (2003) PDF
Fowler CD, Freeman ME, and Wang ZX. Newly proliferated cells in the adult male amygdala are affected by gonadal steroid hormones. J Neurobiol. 57:257-269. (2003) PDF
Aragona BJ, Liu Y, Curtis, TJ, Stephan FK, and Wang ZX. A critical role for nucleus accumbens dopamine in partner-preference formation in male prairie voles. J Neurosci. 23:3483-3490. (2003) PDF