Neural Mechanisms, Memory, and Reproductive Decisions
The influence of social and spatial memory on how individuals in a population mate—for example with one or multiple partners or a mating system—is often ignored. We know almost nothing about the ways the brain modulates these decisions or how memory and mate choice decisions are related.
Alexander Ophir studies reproductive choices in the prairie vole, a species that can switch between monogamous and non-monogamous mating tactics. His goal is to determine whether or not mating decisions in natural conditions and laboratory performance in memory tests relate to each other and how oxytocin or vasopressin in the hippocampus and the retrosplenial cortex, regions implicated in spatial and social cognition, shape these behaviors. A clear understanding of the neural mechanisms that govern how memory influences reproductive decisions will reveal much about the basic neurobiology that shapes decision-making.