our logo depicts the chemical
makeup of the neuropeptides
studied in the lab
Spring view of Beaumont Tower at MSU
Spring view of Beaumont Tower at MSU

Meet the Team

Alexa Veenema
Alexa H. Veenema

Associate Professor

Giltner 212

phone: 517-355-9562

email: aveenema[at]msu.edu

Research Interests

My research focuses on the neural basis of social behavior. Understanding the regulation of social behavior is essential to gain insights in normal social functioning as well as in abnormal social functioning as observed in e.g. autism spectrum disorder, personality disorders, mood and anxiety disorders, and schizophrenia. My ultimate goal is to understand and treat the causes of social behavior deficits more effectively. The following two main interests drive my research: (i) the roles of vasopressin and oxytocin in social behavior (social recognition, social approach-avoidance, social investigation, juvenile play-fighting, adult aggression), and (ii) the neurobiological mechanisms by which early life stress alters social behavior.

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

Positions and Education
Since 2017

Associate Professor in Behavioral Neuroscience in the Department of Psychology at Michigan State University


Associate Professor in Behavioral Neuroscience in the Department of Psychology at Boston College


Assistant Professor in Behavioral Neuroscience in the Department of Psychology at Boston College

2009 - 2010

Postdoctoral fellow, supported by the German Research Foundation, Laboratory of Dr. Geert J. de Vries, Center for Neuroendocrine Studies, Department of Psychology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA

2003 - 2009

Post-doctoral researcher, supported by the Elite Network Bavaria and by the Bavarian Research Foundation, Laboratory of Dr. Inga D. Neumann, University of Regensburg, Germany


Ph.D. in Neuroscience, University of Groningen, the Netherlands, Thesis (ISBN 90-9017020-0): Coping style and stressor susceptibility: a neuroendocrine and neurobiological study in two mouse lines. Advisors: Dr. E. Ronald de Kloet, Dr. Jaap M. Koolhaas


M.Sc. in Biology (Neuroscience concentration), University of Groningen, the Netherlands

Selected Publications

Smith CJ, Poehlmann ML, Li S, Ratnaseelan AM, Bredewold R, Veenema AH (2016) Age and sex differences in oxytocin and vasopressin V1a receptor binding densities in the rat brain: focus on the social decision-making network. Brain Struct Funct, Jul 7 [Epub ahead of print].

Dumais KM, Alonso AG, Bredewold R, Veenema AH (2016) Role of the oxytocin system in amygdala subregions in the regulation of social interest in male and female rats. Neuroscience, 330:138-149.

Dumais KM, Alonso AG, Immormino MA, Bredewold R, Veenema AH (2016) Involvement of the oxytocin system in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis in the sex-specific regulation of social recognition. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 64:79-88.

Dumais KM, Veenema AH (2016) Presence and absence of sex differences in structure and function of the brain oxytocin system: Implications for understanding social behavior. In: Sex Differences in the Central Nervous System, Elsevier, R. Shansky & J. Johnson (Eds), p. 247-284.

Bredewold R, Schiavo JK, Van der Hart M, Verreij M, Veenema AH (2015) Dynamic changes in extracellular release of GABA and glutamate in the lateral septum during social play behavior in juvenile rats: Implications for sex-specific regulation of social play behavior. Neurosci, 307:117-27.

Ferris CF, Yee J, Kenkel W, Dumais KM, Moore K, Veenema AH, Kulkarni P, Perkeybile AM, Carter CS (2015) Distinct BOLD activation profiles following central and peripheral oxytocin administration in awake rats. Front Behav Neurosci, Sep 17;9:245.

Smith CJ, Wilkins KB, Mogavero JN, Veenema AH (2015) Social novelty investigation in the juvenile rat: modulation by the mu-opioid system. J Neuroendocrinol 27:752-764.

Dumais KM, Veenema AH (2015) Vasopressin and oxytocin receptor systems in the brain: sex differences and implications for social behavior. Front Neuroendocrinol, 40:1-23.

Bredewold R, Smith CJW, Dumais KM, Veenema AH (2014) Sex-specific modulation of juvenile social play behavior by vasopressin and oxytocin depends on social context. Front Behav Neurosci, Jun 16;8:216.

Dumais KM, Bredewold R, Mayer TE, Veenema AH (2013) Sex differences in oxytocin receptor binding in forebrain regions: correlations with social interest in brain region- and sex-specific ways. Horm Behav, 64:693-701.

Veenema AH, Bredewold R, De Vries GJ (2013) Sex-specific modulation of juvenile social play by vasopressin. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 38:2554-61.

Veenema AH (2012) Toward understanding how early-life social experiences alter oxytocin- and vasopressin-regulated social behaviors. Horm Behav, 61:304-12.

Veenema AH, Bredewold R, De Vries GJ (2012) Vasopressin regulates social recognition in juvenile and adult rats of both sexes, but in sex- and age-specific ways. Horm Behav, 61:50-56.

Lukas M, Toth I, Reber SO, Slattery DA, Veenema AH, Neumann ID (2011) The neuropeptide oxytocin facilitates pro-social behavior and prevents social avoidance in rats and mice. Neuropsychopharmacology, 36:2159-2168.

Lukas M, Bredewold R, Landgraf R, Neumann ID, Veenema AH (2011) Early life stress impairs social recognition due to a blunted response of vasopressin release within the septum of adult male rats. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 36:843-853.

Veenema AH, Beiderbeck DI, Lukas M, Neumann ID (2010) Distinct correlations of vasopressin release within the lateral septum and the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis with the display of intermale aggression. Horm Behav, 58:273-281.

Lukas M, Bredewold R, Neumann ID, Veenema AH (2010) Maternal separation interferes with developmental changes in brain vasopressin and oxytocin receptor binding in male rats. Neuropharmacology, 58:78-87.

Veenema AH (2009) Early life stress, the development of aggression and neurobiological correlates: What can we learn from animal models? Front Neuroendocrinol, 30:497–518.

Veenema AH, Neumann ID (2009) Maternal separation enhances offensive play-fighting, basal corticosterone and hypothalamic vasopressin mRNA expression in juvenile male rats. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 34:463-467.

Veenema AH, Neumann ID (2008) Central vasopressin and oxytocin release: regulation of complex social behaviours. Prog Brain Res, 170:261-276.

Veenema AH, Reber SO, Selch S, Obermeier F, Neumann ID (2008) Early life stress enhances the vulnerability to chronic psychosocial stress and experimental colitis in adult mice. Endocrinology, 149:2727-2736.>

Beiderbeck DI, Neumann ID, Veenema AH (2007) Differences in intermale aggression are accompanied by opposite vasopressin release patterns within the septum in rats bred for high and low anxiety. Eur J Neurosci, 26:3597-3605.

Veenema AH, Neumann ID (2007) Neurobiological mechanisms of aggression and stress coping: a comparative study in mouse and rat selection lines. Brain Behav Evol, 70:274-285.

Veenema AH, Bredewold R, Neumann ID (2007) Opposite effects of maternal separation on intermale and maternal aggression in C57Bl/6 mice: link to hypothalamic vasopressin and oxytocin immunoreactivity. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 32:437-50.

Veenema AH, Torner L, Blume A, Beiderbeck DI, Neumann ID (2007) Low inborn anxiety correlates with high intermale aggression: Link to ACTH response and neuronal activation of the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus. Horm Behav, 51:11-19.

Veenema AH, Blume A, Niederle D, Buwalda B, Neumann ID (2006) Effects of early life stress on adult male aggression and hypothalamic vasopressin and serotonin. Eur J Neurosci, 24:1711-20.

Veenema AH, Cremers TI, Jongsma ME, Steenbergen PJ, de Boer SF, Koolhaas JM (2005) Differences in the effects of 5-HT(1A) receptor agonists on forced swimming behavior and brain 5-HT metabolism between low and high aggressive mice. Psychopharmacology, 178:151-160.

Veenema AH, Meijer OC, De Kloet ER, Koolhaas JM (2003) Genetic selection for coping style predicts stressor susceptibility. J Neuroendocrinol, 15:256-267.

Veenema AH, Meijer OC, De Kloet ER, Koolhaas JM, Bohus BG (2003) Differences in basal and stress-induced HPA regulation of wild house mice selected for high and low aggression. Horm Behav, 43:197-204.