Brain oxytocin correlates with maternal aggression: Link to anxiety
ABSTRACT The oxytocinergic system is critically involved in the regulation of maternal behavior, which includes maternal aggression. Because aggression has been linked to anxiety, we investigated the maternal aggression and the role of brain oxytocin in lactating Wistar rats selectively bred for high anxiety-related behavior (HAB) or low anxiety-related behavior (LAB) during the 10 min maternal defense test. HAB dams displayed more maternal aggression against a virgin intruder compared with LAB dams, resulting in more defensive behavior and higher anxiety of HAB-defeated virgins. The different levels of aggression were accompanied by opposite oxytocin release patterns within the paraventricular nucleus (PVN; HAB, increase; LAB, decrease). Furthermore, oxytocin release was higher within the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) of HAB dams compared with LABs. A direct correlation between the offensive behavior displayed during the maternal defense test and local oxytocin release was found in both the PVN and CeA. Using retrodialysis, blockade of endogenous oxytocin action by infusion of an oxytocin receptor antagonist (des-Gly-NH2,d(CH2)5[Tyr(Me)2,Thr4]OVT) into the PVN or CeA reduced maternal aggression of HAB dams, whereas infusion of synthetic oxytocin into the PVN tended to increase aggression toward the intruder in LAB dams. There were no significant differences in oxytocin receptor mRNA expression or oxytocin receptor binding between lactating HAB and LAB dams. Therefore, differences in intracerebral release patterns of oxytocin, rather than differences at the level of oxytocin receptors, are critical for the regulation of maternal aggressive behavior.
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ABSTRACT: Oxytocin, a hypothalamic nonapeptide, is linked to increased levels of social interaction, well-being and anti-stress effects. The effects of oxytocin that is released by sensory stimulation during different kinds of interactive behaviors are often underestimated or even forgotten. In fact, many of the positive effects caused during interaction, such a wellbeing, stress reduction and even health promotion, are indeed linked to oxytocin released in response to activation of various types of sensory nerves. Oxytocin is released in response to activation of sensory nerves during labor, breastfeeding and sexual activity. In addition oxytocin is released in response to low intensity stimulation of the skin, e.g., in response to touch, stroking, warm temperature, etc. Consequently oxytocin is not only released during interaction between mothers and infants, but also during positive interaction between adults or between humans and animals. Finally oxytocin is also released in response to suckling and food intake. Oxytocin released in the brain in response to sensory stimulation as a consequence of these types of interactive behaviors, contributes to every day wellbeing and ability to handle stress. Food intake or sex may be used or even abused to achieve oxytocin-linked wellbeing and stress relief to compensate for lack of good relationships or when the levels of anxiety are high. The present review article will summarize the role played by oxytocin released by sensory (in particular somatosensory) stimulation, during various kinds of interactive behaviors. Also the fact that the anti-stress effects of oxytocin are particularly strong when oxytocin is released in response to "low intensity" stimulation of the skin will be highlighted.Frontiers in Psychology 01/2014; 5:1529. DOI:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01529 · 2.80 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: In monogamous mammals paternal care plays an important role in the neural and behavioral development of offspring. However, the neuroendocrine mechanisms underlying paternal behavior remain poorly understood. Here, we investigate the association between natural variation in paternal responsiveness and central levels of oxytocin (OT) and estrogen receptor alpha (ERα). We used the frequency of licking and grooming behavior to distinguish low paternal responsiveness and high paternal responsiveness in virgin mandarin voles (Microtus mandarinus). Males that engaged in high paternal behavior had elevated levels of OT immunoreactive neurons in the paraventricular nuclei of the hypothalamus and supraoptic nuclei of the hypothalamus compared with males that displayed low paternal behavior. Likewise, males of high paternal responsiveness had more ERα immunoreactive neurons in the medial preoptic area, bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus and medial amygdaloid nucleus compared to low responsive males. The level of ERα immunoreactive neurons in the ventromedial hypothalamic nucleus was lower in highly paternal males compared to less paternal males. These results suggest that natural variation in paternal responsiveness may be directly related to variation in central OT and ERα.Journal of Comparative Physiology 02/2015; 201(3). DOI:10.1007/s00359-015-0979-6 · 1.63 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: All jawed vertebrates produce a form of oxytocin (OT), and in birds, mammals and fish, OT is strongly associated with affiliation. However, remarkably few data are available on the roles of OT and OT receptors (OTRs) in aggression. Because OT and OTRs exert anxiolytic effects in mammals (although context-specific) and modulate stress coping, we hypothesized that OTR activation is at least permissive for territorial aggression. Indeed, we find that peripheral injections of an OTR antagonist significantly reduce male-male and female-female aggression in a highly territorial finch. This finding suggests the hypothesis that aggression is accompanied by an increase in transcriptional (Fos) activity of OT neurons, but contrary to this hypothesis, we find that dominant male residents do not elevate OT-Fos colocalization following an aggressive encounter and that OT-Fos colocalization in the preoptic area and hypothalamus correlates negatively with aggression. Furthermore, OT-Fos colocalization increases dramatically in males that were aggressively subjugated or pursued by a human hand, likely reflecting OT modulation of stress response. Because OT inhibits the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis, the antagonist effects may reflect the fact that aggressive birds and mammals tend to be hyporesponsive to stress. If this is correct, then 1) the observed effects of OTR antagonism may reflect alterations in corticosterone feedback to the brain rather than centrally mediated OTR effects, and 2) the negative correlation between OT-Fos colocalization and aggression may reflect the fact that more aggressive, stress hyporesponsive males require less inhibition of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis than do less aggressive males, despite the requirement of that inhibition for the normal display of aggression. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Inc.Physiology & Behavior 01/2015; 141. DOI:10.1016/j.physbeh.2015.01.016 · 3.03 Impact Factor