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Oxytocin, Vasopressin, and the Neurogenetics of Sociality

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Lucie Yang

on 23 January 2014

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Transcript of Oxytocin, Vasopressin, and the Neurogenetics of Sociality

Introduction to Oxytocin & Vasopressin
Growing evidence that these neuropeptides modulate complex social behavior and social cognition
Conservation in gene structure and expression
700 million years
From worms to humans*
Diversity in genetic regulation of receptors responsible for variation in social and reproductive behavior
The neuropeptides are produced in hypothalamic regions and then travel to the pituatry for peripheral release or other brain regions
Oxytocin - Nurturing & Social Attachment
Maternal Behavior
1950s: Peripheral release of oxytocin during giving birth, lactation, sexual function
1970s: Central infusion of oxtocin stimulates maternal behavior in virgin females; Manipulations that decrease oxytocin levels or block receptor activation within the brain reduce maternal behaviors

Oxytocin administration in prairie voles facilitates partner-preference formation (Today's 2nd paper!)
Oxytocin KO mice cannot recognize previously encountered conspecifics
Humans? Not yet clear
Sexual Dichotomy in Function
Conopressin (homolog of oxytocin/vaspressin) in the
modulates ejaculation in males and egg-laying in females
One neuropeptide, different behaviors in the two sexes

Oxytocin: female sociosexual behaviors - sexual intercourse, parturition, lactation, maternal attachment, pair bonding
Vasopressin: male sociosexual behaviors - erection, ejaculation, aggression, territoriality, pair bonding
Caution: Both peptides have behavioral roles in both sexes
Oxytocin, Vasopressin, and the Neurogenetics of Sociality

Zoe R. Donaldson and Larry J. Young

Lucie Yang
Neuro/Psy 390S
Prairie voles: avpr1a microsatellite length - brain V1a receptor expression and social behavior

AVPR1A Locus - Social behavior, personality traits relevant to social interaction, the onset of reproduction
Polymorphism RS3 - Altruism
Participants with longer alleles allocated more funds to another individual, diverting from funds they would receive themselves at end of game
Allele RS3 334
Lower partner bonding scores in males
One study - Autism spectrum disorders
Highest levels of amygdala activation when performing an emotional face-matching task
Vasopressin & Genetic Bases for Variation in Social Behavior
Vasopressin in male prairie voles: behaviors associated with monogamy - paternal care, mate guarding, selective preference
Vasopressin receptor, V1a*
Can be induced in meadow voles via viral vector-mediated gene expression

Vasotocin in field sparrows: vocalization and aggressive behavior

Neuropeptides, Human Social Cognition, Trust
Males: vasopressin decreases perceived friendliness of faces, increases agonistic facial motor patterns
Females: vasopressin increases perceived friendliness, increases affiliative facial motor programs
Subjects with oxytocin administered intranasally were better at classifying emotions displayed on faces - inferring mental state of another individual
Oxytocin administration increases gaze to eye region of human faces

Intranasal oxytocin increased amount of money an "investor" was willing to offer to a "trustee," who, after the amount is amplified, could choose to return a smaller or larger sum back to investor
Not seen when investment return is determined by random lottery


When "betrayed," investors who had oxytocin administered did not decrease subsequent investment amounts

Facial Recognition
Faces presented with shocks, skewing viewer's emotional rating negatively
Those who had been administered oxytocin were more likely to rate shock-paired faces as more forgiving and sympathetic
Implications for Society
Understanding in humans is incomplete
Oxytocin influence in women has not been investigated
Intranasal - Physiologically relevant? Or pharmacological artifacts
AVPR1A locus is promising target, but link between genes, brain, and behavior is still weak
Only one study investigating receptor distribution in postmortem human brains

Potential clues into treatment of social deficit diseases such as depression and social phobia
Oxytocin administration 1) enhanced emotional understanding of speech intonation and 2) decreased repetitive behaviors
Development of agonists that penetrate blood/brain barrier would be the next important step

Moral questions?
Salesmen... Oxytocin to manipulate trust for personal benefit? Marriage counselors... Oxytocin infusions to save a marriage?
Full transcript