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 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.


Upcoming Research-Related Events

July 26-29, 2017: The lab will be present at the 12th World Congress on Neurohypophysial Hormones in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Justin and Remco will present posters, Christina will give a talk in the symposium: “Young Investigator Prize Presentations”, and Alexa will give a talk in the symposium:”Sex differences in vasopressin signaling: a whole body perspective”.

November 10, 2017: Christina, Justin, and Remco will present their work at the annual meeting of the Society for Social Neuroscience in Washington, DC.

November 11-15, 2017: Christina, Justin, and Remco will present a poster and Alexa will give a talk at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Washington, DC.