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our logo depicts the chemical
makeup of the neuropeptides
studied in the lab

Welcome to the Veenema Lab

*Our lab will be moving to Michigan State University as of January 2017* Please email Dr. Veenema if you are interested in joining the lab as graduate student (starting in fall 2017), undergraduate student (starting March 2017 or thereafter) or lab technician (starting as early as January 2017).

Our lab explores the neural basis of social behavior. Specifically, our research focuses on understanding the roles of the neuropeptides vasopressin and oxytocin (as well as opioids and orexin) in regulating social behavior (such as social play, social novelty-seeking, social recognition, social investigation, and sociosexual motivation) and how this is modulated by sex, age, and early life stress. We use rats as model organisms and employ a combination of behavioral, molecular, biochemical, and pharmacological techniques to address our research questions.

Understanding the regulation of social behavior is essential to gain insights in normal as well as abnormal social functioning. Abnormal social functioning is observed in various psychiatric disorders including autism spectrum disorder, personality disorders, mood and anxiety disorders, and schizophrenia. Vasopressin and oxytocin are closely related and evolutionarily highly conserved neuropeptides synthesized and released in the brain. Importantly, these neuropeptides play key roles in the regulation of social behavior in a wide variety of species, including humans and rodents. Despite major advances in this field over the last two decades, several important issues are poorly understood and/or relatively unexplored.

It is expected that our research will gain insights into the neural network underlying normal as well as abnormal forms of social behavior. Findings of our research will be essential first steps in the evaluation of vasopressin and oxytocin as potential therapeutic targets in the treatment of social dysfunction in humans. Ultimately, our research should help lead to more effective treatment of the symptoms and/or causes of social behavior deficits.

Our research is supported by the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Mental Health.