Kalcounis-Rüppell NSF Award | UNCG Biology

Dr. Matina Kalcounis-Rüppell receives NSF Funding

Dr. Matina Kalcounis-Rüppell, UNCG Biology Associate Professor, was the recent recipient of NSF funding for her project -- "EAGER: Social Context and Functions of Testosterone Pulses in wild California mice." (Please see abstract below.) Congratulations Dr. Matina Kalcounis-Rüppell!

Abstract: Our goal is to test new hypotheses related to spacing and ultrasound communication between bonded pairs of mice and their neighbors and how these interactions change based on manipulations of the male's motivation and social focus. While testosterone (T) manipulations via long-lasting implants have been used under field conditions in birds and lizards to mimic altered baseline levels, transient increases in T have not. We hypothesize that the temporal pattern and context of T release are critical: T has rewarding effects that can induce conditioned place preferences (CPPs). To our knowledge, the adaptive function of CPPs has not been tested in the field or lab, despite being a well-established paradigm used for studying addiction and reward. We hypothesize that CPPs influence a male's use of space within his territory and his social interactions. On a social level, spacing and ultrasound communication can be influenced by both male-male and male-female interactions. In many species, T increases in response to both types of interactions, including the monogamous and biparental California mouse, Peromyscus californicus, but it is unknown how transient pulses of T function differently between the two social contexts or whether there is one similar function (Gleason et al. 2009). Our central hypothesis is that one similar function of T within the different social contexts is to induce a CPP in specific areas of the territory and alter social interactions related to that location. We believe that the lack of knowledge of how transient increases in T function to influence behavior leaves a significant gap in understanding the physiological and neural mechanisms that mediate the association between current and future behavioral responses to the social environment.

August, 2011