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Zoe Donaldson - Neurobiology of pair bonding and loss in prairie voles

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Join us at Gunn Rotunda in the Stanford Neurosciences Building to learn about the latest cutting-edge, cross-disciplinary brain research, from biochemistry to behavior and beyond

Wu Tsai Neuro's weekly seminar series is back to being held in-person starting in Fall 2022. Masking is strongly encouraged for the health and safety of our community

Join the speaker for coffee, cookies, and conversation after the talk

Neurobiology of pair bonding and loss in prairie voles


Romantic bonds reinforce our health and well-being while their sudden loss is highly detrimental. My long-term career goal is to identify the neural and genetic mechanisms that contribute to the positive physiological effects of social bonds and leverage our research on bond formation to understand the neural processes that enable recovery from loss. To accomplish this, my laboratory has taken advantage of the unique behavioral repertoire of monogamous prairie voles, which form life-long pair bonds and exhibit distress upon partner separation. In this seminar, I will discuss new experimental approaches and neurotechnologies we have pioneered in prairie voles to study complex social behaviors at multiple biological levels, focusing on recent work delineating transcriptional signatures of pair bonding and partner loss. Ultimately, I anticipate that this work will lead to novel ways in which we can harness the positive biological effects of social bonds and ameliorate the emotional pain and harmful health consequences of loss.

Zoe Donaldson

University of Colorado, Boulder

(Visit lab website)

Dr. Zoe Donaldson is an Associate Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Colorado Boulder where she is the recipient of the NIH New Innovator and the NSF CAREER awards, among others. She joined the faculty after completing a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Emory University and pursuing post-doctoral training at Columbia University. She studies how close social bonds, such as those that mediate friendships and romantic love, are encoded in the brain. In order to understand the cells and molecules that make bonding possible, her lab uses monogamous prairie voles. Unlike rats and mice, these rodents forms lifelong pair bonds between mates akin to human romantic partnerships. By examining the neurobiology underlying these bonds and what happens when they are lost, she hopes to identify novel treatments for psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders. Her work has been highlighted in the Economist and the Washington Post.

Hosted by - Keren Haroush

About the Wu Tsai Neuro Seminar Series

The Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute seminar series brings together the Stanford neuroscience community to discuss cutting-edge, cross-disciplinary brain research, from biochemistry to behavior and beyond.

Topics include new discoveries in fundamental neurobiology; advances in human and translational neuroscience; insights from computational and theoretical neuroscience; and the development of novel research technologies and neuro-engineering breakthroughs.

Unless otherwise noted, seminars are held Thursdays at 12:00 noon PT.

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