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Karen Bales


  • Ph.D., Biology, University of Maryland
  • M.A., Anthropology, University of Tennessee
  • B.A., Anthropology; Minor, Biology, University of New Orleans


In addition to her academic appointment, Karen Bales is a unit leader of the Brain, Mind and Behavior Unit at the California National Primate Research Center. She is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology, the Society for Neuroscience, and immediate past president of the American Society of Primatologists. She also serves as an associate editor of the American Journal of Primatology.

Research Focus

Professor Bales studies the physiology, neurobiology and development of social bonding, particularly in monogamous species.  She works with prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster) and titi monkeys (Callicebus cupreus), both species in which males and females form pair-bonds, and males help care for infants. In particular, she is interested in the role of neuropeptides such as oxytocin and vasopressin in these behaviors, as well as the effects of early experiences on the development of these behaviors. Her current research focuses on animal models of the long-term effects of exposure to intranasal oxytocin, as this hormone is already being prescribed to humans for treatment of autism, schizophrenia and social anxiety.

Selected Publications


Professor Bales teaches in the areas of physiological psychology and has recently taught courses on physiological psychology and hormones and behavior. Undergraduates can gain research experience in her laboratory, focusing on social behavior, hormones and neuroanatomy.


Professor Bales has received a number of prestigious grants and awards throughout her career.  She has received research grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Science Foundation, the Good Nature Institute, the National Institute for Drug Abuse, and the National Alliance for Autism Research, among others. In 2004, she received an International Neuropeptide Society Young Investigator Award and in 2002, the Burroughs-Wellcome/American Society of Primatologists Young Investigator Award. From 2000 to 2003, she held a National Institutes of Health post-doctoral NRSA fellowship, and from 2004 to 2007, an NSF ADVANCE grant. She is a Kavli Fellow and a UC Davis ADVANCE Scholar.