|Dr. Alex Ophir|
Behavioral Neuroendocrinology, Animal Behavior, Cognitive Ecology.
Ph.D. 2004, McMaster University
A central goal of our research is to understand the proximate control of social behavior and the ultimate consequences of these behaviors. Research in our lab utilizes classic field and laboratory techniques in combination with modern molecular tools to examine the roles of specific brain regions in coordinating social recognition and diverse attributes of temperament related to attachment, aggression, and care-giving.
Research in our lab explores existing individual variation in behavior and the underlying mechanisms involved in prosocial behavior (e.g., partner fidelity), anti-social behavior (e.g., territory defense), socio-spatial cognition (e.g., social recognition and spatial memory), mating decisions (e.g., alternative reproductive tactics) and fitness (e.g., offspring survival). Specifically we focus on the neuropeptides vasopressin and oxytocin in prairie voles. By investigating the roles of oxytocin, vasopressin and their receptors in multiple social domains, we hope to better understand the substrates of social cognition, socio-emotional behavior, mate choice, mating strategies and consequences of paternal care on offspring development.
Recently we have also begun working with an exotic rodent (the African giant pouched rat) to study basic reproductive behaviors and ‘animal personality’ (or individual variation in repeatable behaviors). In this project, we investigate the hypothesis that animal personality and basic aspects of biology, ranging from mating behavior, reproductive tactics, stress-coping strategies, exploratory behavior, and aggression can reveal systematic patterns in behavior that have identifiable molecular markers, which can be used to predict these so-called ‘behavioral syndromes.’ Moreover, identification of such molecular markers and characterization of correlated suites of behavior will reveal new insights into the evolution of social behavior and social interactions.
Students interested in joining my lab should visit my lab webpage.