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Professor Bales Receives $3.5 million NIH Award to Study Neurobiology of Social Behavior

Professor Karen Bales (Psychology Department and California National Primate Research Center) received notice of award for a new, $3.5 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, titled "Kappa opioid and oxytocin interactions in social buffering and separation". The project will examine the neurobiology of social buffering and separation in titi monkeys (Plecturocebus cupreus), a socially monogamous species that represents an ideal animal model for studying these phenomena. Social buffering is a process by which social partners can reduce stress responses, and represents a key mechanism for the beneficial effects of social relationships on health in humans, and more generally in primates and other mammals. However, the neurobiology of social buffering is not well understood. Another pathway by which social relationships impact health is via the negative effects of social separation and partner loss. This grant-funded project will examine the underlying neurobiology of both social buffering and social separation, focusing primarily on the roles of kappa opioid and oxytocin. Co-investigators on the project include Emilio Ferrer and Camelia Hostinar from Psychology, as well as Abhijit Chaudhari from the Center for Molecular and Genomic Imaging.