Oxytocin and vasopressin increase male-directed threats and vocalizations in female macaques.
ABSTRACT: In a previous study, we reported that intranasal delivery of both oxytocin (OT) and arginine vasopressin (AVP) to male macaques relaxes spontaneous social interactions, flattens the existing dominance hierarchy, and increases behavioral synchrony with other monkeys. Here we report that intranasal OT and AVP administration modulates the behaviors of female macaque monkeys, but in robustly different ways from males. Most notably, both neuropeptides increase threatening and vocalization behaviors of females when they encounter males, and these behaviors effectively increase the social status of females over males. While OT and AVP heighten the confrontational nature of intersexual encounters, both peptides relax interactions between females. Finally, as previously reported for males, treating an individual female monkey with OT or AVP significantly modulates the behavior of her non-treated partner. Together, these findings show that OT and AVP can either inhibit or promote aggression, depending on sex and behavioral context, and call for a more careful, systematic examination of the functions of these neuropeptides in both sexes, especially in the context of therapeutics for human social disorders.
Project description:The neuropeptides oxytocin (OT) and arginine vasopressin (AVP) influence social functions in many mammals. In humans and rhesus macaques, OT delivered intranasally can promote prosocial behavior in certain contexts. Yet the precise neural mechanisms mediating these behavioral effects remain unclear. Here we show that treating a group of male macaque monkeys intranasally with aerosolized OT relaxes their spontaneous social interactions with other monkeys. OT reduces differences in social behavior between dominant and subordinate monkeys, thereby flattening the status hierarchy. OT also increases behavioral synchrony within a pair. Intranasal delivery of aerosolized AVP reproduces the effects of OT with greater efficacy. Remarkably, all behavioral effects are replicated when OT or AVP is injected focally into the anterior cingulate gyrus (ACCg), a brain area linked to empathy and other-regarding behavior. ACCg lacks OT receptors but is rich in AVP receptors, suggesting exogenous OT may shape social behavior, in part, via nonspecific binding. Notably, OT and AVP alter behaviors of both the treated monkey and his untreated partner, consistent with enhanced feedback through reciprocal social interactions. These findings bear important implications for use of OT in both basic research and as a therapy for social impairments in neurodevelopmental disorders.
Project description:Both oxytocin (OT) and vasopressin (AVP) are known to modulate social behavior, and dysfunction in both systems has been postulated as a potential cause of certain psychiatric disorders that involve social behavioral deficits. In particular, there is growing interest in intranasal OT as a potential treatment for certain psychiatric disorders, and preliminary pre-clinical and clinical studies suggest efficacy in alleviating some of the associated symptoms. However, the vast majority of research participants in these studies have been male, and there is evidence for sexually differentiated effects of nonapeptides in both humans and non-human animals. To date, no study has investigated the effect of intranasal OT on brain function in human males and females within the same paradigm. Previously, in a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind fMRI study, we reported effects of intranasal OT and AVP on behavior and brain activity of human males as they played an interactive social game known as the Prisoner's Dilemma Game. Here, we present findings from an identical study in human females, and compare these with our findings from males. Overall, we find that both behavioral and neural responses to intranasal OT and AVP are highly sexually differentiated. In women, AVP increased conciliatory behavior, and both OT and AVP caused women to treat computer partners more like humans. In men, AVP increased reciprocation of cooperation from both human and computer partners. However, no specific drug effects on behavior were shared between men and women. During cooperative interactions, both OT and AVP increased brain activity in men within areas rich in OT and AVP receptors and in areas playing a key role in reward, social bonding, arousal and memory (e.g., the striatum, basal forebrain, insula, amygdala and hippocampus), whereas OT and AVP either had no effect or in some cases actually decreased brain activity in these regions in women. OT treatment rendered neural responses of males more similar to responses of females in the placebo group and vice versa, raising the prospect of an inverted u-shaped dose response to central OT levels. These findings emphasize the need to fully characterize the effects of intranasal OT and AVP in both males and females and at multiple doses before widespread clinical application will be warranted.
Project description:Oxytocin (OT) and vasopressin (AVP) are important hypothalamic neuropeptides that regulate peripheral physiology, and have emerged as important modulators of brain function, particularly in the social realm. OT structure and the genes that ultimately determine structure are highly conserved among diverse eutherian mammals, but recent discoveries have identified surprising variability in OT and peptide structure in New World monkeys (NWM), with five new OT variants identified to date. This review explores these new findings in light of comparative OT/AVP ligand evolution, documents coevolutionary changes in the oxytocin and vasopressin receptors (OTR and V1aR), and highlights the distribution of neuropeptidergic neurons and receptors in the primate brain. Finally, the behavioral consequences of OT and AVP in regulating NWM sociality are summarized, demonstrating important neuromodulatory effects of these compounds and OT ligand-specific influences in certain social domains.
Project description:Chronic exposure to stressors impairs the function of multiple organ systems and has been implicated in increased disease risk. In the rodent, the chronic variable stress (CVS) paradigm has successfully modeled several stress-related illnesses. Despite striking disparities between men and women in the prevalence and etiology of disorders associated with chronic stress, most preclinical research examining chronic stressor exposure has focused on male subjects. One potential mediator of the consequences of CVS is oxytocin (OT), a known regulator of stress neurocircuitry and behavior. To ascertain the sex-specific effects of CVS in the C57BL/6 mouse on OT and the structurally similar neuropeptide arginine vasopressin (AVP), the numbers of immunoreactive and mRNA-containing neurons in the paraventricular nucleus (PVN) and supraoptic nucleus (SON) were determined using immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization, respectively. In addition, the mice underwent a battery of behavioral tests to determine whether CVS affects social behaviors known to be regulated by OT and AVP. Six weeks of CVS increased sociability in the female mouse and decreased PVN OT immunoreactivity (ir) and AVP mRNA. In the male mice, CVS decreased PVN OT mRNA but had no effect on social behavior, AVP, or OT-ir. CVS also increased the soma volume for PVN OT neurons. In contrast, OT and AVP neurons in the SON were unaffected by CVS treatment. These findings demonstrate clear sex differences in the effects of CVS on neuropeptides in the mouse, suggest a pathway through which CVS alters sociability and stress-coping responses in females and reveals a vulnerability to CVS in the C57BL/6 mouse strain.
Project description:The molecular and neural mechanisms regulating human social-emotional behaviors are fundamentally important but largely unknown; unraveling these requires a genetic systems neuroscience analysis of human models. Williams Syndrome (WS), a condition caused by deletion of ~28 genes, is associated with a gregarious personality, strong drive to approach strangers, difficult peer interactions, and attraction to music. WS provides a unique opportunity to identify endogenous human gene-behavior mechanisms. Social neuropeptides including oxytocin (OT) and arginine vasopressin (AVP) regulate reproductive and social behaviors in mammals, and we reasoned that these might mediate the features of WS. Here we established blood levels of OT and AVP in WS and controls at baseline, and at multiple timepoints following a positive emotional intervention (music), and a negative physical stressor (cold). We also related these levels to standardized indices of social behavior. Results revealed significantly higher median levels of OT in WS versus controls at baseline, with a less marked increase in AVP. Further, in WS, OT and AVP increased in response to music and to cold, with greater variability and an amplified peak release compared to controls. In WS, baseline OT but not AVP, was correlated positively with approach, but negatively with adaptive social behaviors. These results indicate that WS deleted genes perturb hypothalamic-pituitary release not only of OT but also of AVP, implicating more complex neuropeptide circuitry for WS features and providing evidence for their roles in endogenous regulation of human social behavior. The data suggest a possible biological basis for amygdalar involvement, for increased anxiety, and for the paradox of increased approach but poor social relationships in WS. They also offer insight for translating genetic and neuroendocrine knowledge into treatments for disorders of social behavior.
Project description:Natural variations in parenting are associated with differences in expression of several hormones and neuropeptides which may mediate lasting effects on offspring development, like regulation of stress reactivity and social behavior. Using the bi-parental California mouse, we have demonstrated that parenting and aggression are programmed, at least in part, by paternal behavior as adult offspring model the degree of parental behavior received in development and are more territorial following high as compared to low levels of care. Development of these behaviors may be driven by transient increases in testosterone following paternal retrievals and increased adult arginine vasopressin (AVP) immunoreactivity within the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) among high-care (HC) offspring. It remains unclear, however, whether other neuropeptides, such as oxytocin (OT), which is sensitive to gonadal steroids, are similarly impacted by father-offspring interactions. To test this question, we manipulated paternal care (high and low care) and examined differences in adult offspring OT-immunoreactive (OT-ir) within social brain areas as well as basal T and corticosterone (Cort) levels. HC offspring had more OT-ir within the paraventricular nucleus (PVN) and supraoptic nucleus (SON) than low-care (LC) offspring. Additionally, T levels were higher among HC than LC females, but no differences were found in males. There were no differences in Cort indicating that our brief father-pup separations likely had no consequences on stress reactivity. Together with our previous work, our data suggest that social behavior may be programmed by paternal care through lasting influences on the neuroendocrine system.
Project description:The neuropeptides oxytocin (OT) and vasopressin (AVP) have been shown to play a central role in social behaviors; as a consequence, they have been recognized as potential drugs to treat neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders characterized by impaired social interactions. However, despite the basic and preclinical relevance of mouse strains carrying genetic alterations in the OT/AVP systems to basic and preclinical translational neuroscience, the pharmacological profile of mouse OT/AVP receptor subtypes has not been fully characterized. To fill in this gap, we have characterized a number of OT and AVP agonists and antagonists at three murine OT/AVP receptors expressed in the nervous system as follows: the oxytocin (mOTR) and vasopressin V1a (mV1aR) and V1b (mV1bR) subtypes. These three receptors were transiently expressed in vitro for binding and intracellular signaling assays, and then a homology model of the mOTR structure was constructed to investigate how its molecular features compare with human and rat OTR orthologs. Our data indicate that the selectivity profile of the natural ligands, OT and AVP, is conserved in humans, rats, and mice. Furthermore, we found that the synthetic peptide [Thr(4)Gly(7)]OT (TGOT) is remarkably selective for the mOTR and, like the endogenous OT ligand, activates Gq and Gi and recruits β-arrestins. Finally, we report three antagonists that exhibit remarkably high affinities and selectivities at mOTRs. These highly selective pharmacological tools will contribute to the investigation of the specific physiologic and pathologic roles of mOTR for the development of selective OT-based therapeutics.
Project description:Research supports a modulatory role for arginine vasopressin (AVP) in the expression of socially motivated behaviors in mammals. The acute effects of AVP administration are demonstrably pro-social across species, providing the justification for an ever-increasing measure of clinical interest over the last decade. Combining these results with non-invasive intranasal delivery results in an attractive system for offering intranasal AVP (IN-AVP) as a therapeutic for the social impairments of children with autism spectrum disorder. But, very little is known about the long-term effects of IN-AVP during early development. In this experiment, we explored whether a single week of early juvenile administration of IN-AVP (low?=?0.05?IU/kg, medium?=?0.5?IU/kg, high?=?5.0?IU/kg) could impact behavior across life in prairie voles. We found increases in fecal boli production during open field and novel object recognition testing for the medium dose in both males and females. Medium-dose females also had significantly more play bouts than control when exposed to novel conspecifics during the juvenile period. Following sexual maturity, the medium and high doses of IN-AVP blocked partner preference formation in males, while no such impairment was found for any of the experimental groups in females. Finally, the high-dose selectively increased adult male aggression with novel conspecifics, but only after extended cohabitation with a mate. Our findings confirm that a single week of early IN-AVP treatment can have organizational effects on behavior across life in prairie voles. Specifically, the impairments in pair-bonding behavior experienced by male prairie voles should raise caution when the prosocial effects of acute IN-AVP demonstrated in other studies are extrapolated to long-term treatment.
Project description:This study investigates paternal brain function with the hope of better understanding the neural basis for variation in caregiving involvement among men. The neuropeptides oxytocin (OT) and vasopressin (AVP) are implicated in paternal caregiving in humans and other species. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled, within-subject pharmaco-functional MRI experiment, we randomized 30 fathers of 1-2year old children to receive either 24IU intranasal OT before one scan and placebo before the other scan (n=15) or 20IU intranasal AVP before one scan and placebo before the other scan (n=15). Brain function was measured with fMRI as the fathers viewed pictures of their children, unknown children and unknown adults, and as they listened to unknown infant cry stimuli. Intranasal OT, but not AVP, significantly increased the BOLD fMRI response to viewing pictures of own children within the caudate nucleus, a target of midbrain dopamine projections, as well as the dorsal anterior cingulate (dACC) and visual cortex, suggesting that intranasal oxytocin augments activation in brain regions involved in reward, empathy and attention in human fathers. OT effects also varied as a function of order of administration such that when OT was given before placebo, it increased activation within several reward-related structures (substantia nigra, ventral tegmental area, putamen) more than when it was given after placebo. Neither OT nor AVP had significant main effects on the neural response to cries. Our findings suggest that the hormonal changes associated with the transition to fatherhood are likely to facilitate increased approach motivation and empathy for children, and call for future research that evaluates the potential of OT to normalize deficits in paternal motivation, as might be found among men suffering from post-partum depression.
Project description:The neuropeptides oxytocin (OXT) and vasopressin (AVP) have been identified as modulators of emotional social behaviors and associated with neuropsychiatric disorders characterized by social dysfunction. Experimental and therapeutic use of OXT and AVP via the intranasal route is the subject of extensive clinical research. However, the large-scale functional substrates directly engaged by these peptides and their functional dynamics remain elusive. By using cerebral blood volume (CBV) weighted fMRI in the mouse, we show that intranasal administration of OXT rapidly elicits the transient activation of cortical regions and a sustained activation of hippocampal and forebrain areas characterized by high oxytocin receptor density. By contrast, intranasal administration of AVP produced a robust and sustained deactivation in cortico-parietal, thalamic and mesolimbic regions. Importantly, intravenous administration of OXT and AVP did not recapitulate the patterns of modulation produced by intranasal dosing, supporting a central origin of the observed functional changes. In keeping with this notion, hippocampal local field potential recordings revealed multi-band power increases upon intranasal OXT administration. We also show that the selective OXT-derivative TGOT reproduced the pattern of activation elicited by OXT and that the deletion of OXT receptors does not affect AVP-mediated deactivation. Collectively, our data document divergent modulation of brainwide neural systems by intranasal administration of OXT and AVP, an effect that involves key substrates of social and emotional behavior. The observed divergence calls for a deeper investigation of the systems-level mechanisms by which exogenous OXT and AVP modulate brain function and exert their putative therapeutic effects.