Pheromonal Induction of Spatial Learning in Mice

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Abstract

Many mammals use scent marking for sexual and competitive advertisement, but little is known about the mechanism by which scents are used to locate mates and competitors. We show that darcin, an involatile protein sex pheromone in male mouse urine, can rapidly condition preference for its remembered location among females and competitor males so that animals prefer to spend time in the site even when scent is absent. Learned spatial preference is conditioned through contact with darcin in a single trial and remembered for approximately 14 days. This pheromone-induced learning allows animals to relocate sites of particular social relevance and provides proof that pheromones such as darcin can be highly potent stimuli for social learning.

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