Welcome to the Veenema Lab

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 and mice as model organisms and employ a combination of behavioral, molecular, biochemical, genetic, chemogenetic, 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.


Upcoming Research-Related Events

August 28-31, 2019: Remco will present a poster and Alexa will give a talk in a symposium on “Brain circuits of prosocial behavior” chaired by Louk Vanderschuren and Marijke Achterberg (both from Utrecht University, Netherlands) and with Siri Leknes (University of Oslo, Norway), Christian Keysers (Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, Netherlands), and Marijn van Wingerden (Heinrich Heine University Duesseldorf, Germany) as symposium speakers at the biannual meeting of the European Behavioural Pharmacological Society in Braga, Portugal.
September 2-6, 2019: Alexa will participate in a Neuroscience Summer School on “Understanding the behaviour in animal models” that is organized by the Norwegian Research School in Neuroscience and the University of Tromsø and will take place at the Sommarøy Arctic Hotel in Tromsø, Norway.
September 21-25, 2019: Christina won a travel award from the Society for Neuroscience to attend and present at the 10th IBRO Worlds Congress of Neuroscience that will take place in Daegu, South Korea!
October 19-23, 2019: The lab will attend the 49th annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Chicago, IL with poster presentations by Christina, Jessica, Katie, and Remco.