Alexa Veenema is a recipient of the Young Investigator Grant Award from NARSAD, the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation.
Research article: Early life stress impairs social recognition. Using a well-established animal model of early life stress Alexa Veenema and co-authors showed that early life stress impairs the ability of male rats to remember a familiar rat. This impaired social memory was associated with a blunted response of vasopressin release in the brain. Vasopressin is a neuropeptide produced and released in the brain and is known to facilitate social recognition. Increasing local vasopressin availability in the brain restored social recognition in rats exposed to early life stress. These results are reported in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology in a paper authored by Michael Lukas, Remco Bredewold, Rainer Landgraf, Inga D. Neumann, and Alexa H. Veenema.
Research article: Vasopressin modulates aggressive behavior in brain-region specific ways. Findings in this paper challenge the general view that vasopressin enhances aggression. Using intracerebral microdialysis Alexa Veenema and co-authors measured vasopressin release within the brain of male rats exposed to an aggressive encounter. She found that aggression correlated positively with vasopressin release in the lateral septum, but negatively with vasopressin release in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis. Both brain regions play important roles in modulating social and emotional responses. Moreover, aggressive behavior was reduced by either blocking vasopressin neurotransmission in the lateral septum or increasing vasopressin neurotransmission in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis. These data reveal that vasopressin can both promote and inhibit aggression, depending upon the brain region in which vasopressin is released. Brain region-specific effects may explain how vasopressin coordinates a range of social behaviors. These results are reported in the journal Hormones and Behavior in a paper authored by Alexa H. Veenema, Daniela Beiderbeck, Michael Lukas, and Inga D. Neumann.