Flank-Marking Behavior and the Neural Distribution of Vasopressin Innervation in Golden Hamsters With Suprachiasmatic Lesions

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In golden hamsters, microinjections of arginine-vasopressin (AVP) within the anterior hypothalamus trigger a stereotyped scent-marking behavior, flank marking. Our experiment was carried out to test the contribution of AVP neurons within the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in the control of this behavior. Our results suggest that the SCN does not contribute to flank-marking behavior. Whereas SCN lesions disrupted circadian rhythms of wheel running, the same lesions did not disrupt flank-marking. The results also suggest that neurons located outside the SCN contribute significantly to the vasopressinergic innervation of the brain and the expression of AVP-dependent behaviors, such as flank-marking behavior. Although AVP-immunoreactive fibers were severely (ca. 95%) depleted from several forebrain areas in SCN-lesioned hamsters, the effect of the lesions was much more limited within the forebrain areas involved in flank-marking behavior as well as within the midbrain and hindbrain.

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