Cheryl Sisk Adolescent Maturation of Social Behaviors: Multi-tasking by Testosterone

April 19, 2016 • 2:00pm–3:30pm • 3105 Tolman

Center on the Developing Adolescent

Adolescent development includes maturation of social cognition, which involves the perception of social cues and selection of a context-appropriate behavioral response. Social reward and the incentive salience of social cues are necessarily revised during adolescence as the social hub switches from family to peers. Social proficiency is acquired via behavioral adaptations to social experience. Using male Syrian hamsters to study underlying neuroendocrine mechanisms, we found that adult, but not juvenile, males form a conditioned place preference (CPP) to female chemosensory stimuli, indicating that this social cue is not rewarding prior to puberty. Testosterone-treated juvenile males do form a CPP to female odors, and this CPP is prevented by the dopamine receptor antagonist haloperidol. We next identified an example of social proficiency in adult hamsters, i.e., a decrease in misdirected mounts with repeated sexual experience. Male hamsters deprived of testosterone during adolescence do not show this behavioral adaptation, even after testosterone replacement in adulthood. Over-expression of the transcription factor FosB into the ventral prefrontal cortex of these males restores the ability to reduce misdirected mounts with sexual experience. Our studies thus show that 1) the perception of female odors as rewarding is activated during puberty by testosterone via a dopamine receptor-dependent mechanism, and 2) the ability to acquire social proficiency is organized by pubertal testosterone, likely involving structural reorganization of the prefrontal cortex.