Return to Directory

Aras Petrulis

Associate Professor    Faculty    ,

B.S. Psychology; Arizona State University, 1991
Ph.D. Psychology; Cornell University, 1998


Behavioral neuroendocrinology
Social neuroscience
Chemical communication


Dr. Aras Petrulis was born in Toronto, Canada but then subsequently relocated to Phoenix, Arizona for high school and college. While attending Arizona State University as a Biology major, he took a course in physiological psychology that ignited his passion for neuroscience. Dr. Petrulis graduated with a B.S. in Psychology and attended Cornell University, where he received his Ph.D. in Psychology in 1998 working in the laboratory of Dr. Robert E. Johnston (supported in part by a pre-doctoral Ruth Kirschstein National Research Service Award). After graduation, Dr. Petrulis was a post-doctoral research associate at Boston University in the laboratory of Dr. Howard Eichenbaum (supported by a post-doctoral Ruth Kirschstein National Research Service Award). In 2002, Dr. Petrulis joined the Department of Psychology faculty at GSU and is currently an Associate Professor in the Neuroscience Institute and in the Department of Psychology.
Dr. Petrulis’s current research explores the role of the sex-different brain peptide, vasopressin, in the regulation of social behavior and communication using modern intersectional genetic approaches. His research program has been and is currently funded by the National Institutes of Health.

  • Whylings J, Rigney N, Peters NV, de Vries GJ, Petrulis A. (2019). Sexually dimorphic role of BNST vasopressin cells in sickness and social behavior in male and female mice. Brain Behav Immun. 2019 Sep 21. pii: S0889-1591(19)30580-X. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2019.09.015. PMID: 31550501.
    Circumstantial evidence supports the hypothesis that the sexually dimorphic vasopressin (AVP) innervation of the brain tempers sickness behavior in males. Here we test this hypothesis directly, by comparing sickness behavior in animals with or without ablations of BNST AVP cells, a major source of sexually dimorphic AVP in the brain. We treated male and female AVP-iCre+ and AVP-iCre- mice that had been injected with viral Cre-dependent caspase-3 executioner construct into the BNST with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) or sterile saline, followed by behavioral analysis. In all groups, LPS treatment reliably reduced motor behavior, increased anxiety-related behavior, and reduced sucrose preference and consumption. Male mice, whose BNST AVP cells had been ablated (AVP-iCre+), displayed only minor reductions in LPS-induced sickness behavior, whereas their female counterparts displayed, if anything, an increase in sickness behaviors. All saline-treated mice with BNST AVP cell ablations consumed more sucrose than did control mice, and males, but not females, with BNST AVP cell ablations showed reduced preference for novel conspecifics compared to control mice. These data confirm that BNST AVP cells control social behavior in a sexually dimorphic way, but do not play a critical role in altering sickness behavior.
  • Rigney N, Whylings J, Mieda M, de Vries G, Petrulis A. (2019). Sexually Dimorphic Vasopressin Cells Modulate Social Investigation and Communication in Sex-Specific Ways. eNeuro. 2019 Jan 28;6(1). pii: ENEURO.0415-18.2019. doi: 10.1523/ENEURO.0415-18.2019. eCollection 2019 Jan-Feb. PMID: 30693316.
    The neuropeptide arginine vasopressin (AVP) has long been implicated in the regulation of social behavior and communication, but precisely which AVP cell groups are involved is largely unknown. To address whether the sexually dimorphic AVP cell group in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) is important for social communication, we deleted BNST AVP cells by viral delivery of a Cre-dependent caspase-3 cell-death construct in AVP-iCre-positive mice using AVP-iCre negative littermate as controls, and assessed social, sexual, aggressive and anxiety-related behaviors. In males, lesioning BNST AVP cells reduced social investigation of other males and increased urine marking (UM) in the presence of a live female, without altering ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs), resident-intruder aggression, copulatory behavior, anxiety, or investigation of females or their odor cues. In females, which have significantly fewer AVP cells in the BNST, these injections influenced copulatory behavior but otherwise had minimal effects on social behavior and communication, indicating that these cells contribute to sex differences in social behavioral function.

Find Aras Petrulis’s Publications on PubMed