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Peripheral pulses of oxytocin increase partner preferences in female, but not male, prairie voles

Centrally administered oxytocin (OT) facilitates social behaviors including the partner preferences that characterize the monogamous social system of prairie voles. In contrast peripherally administered OT generally has been ineffective in influencing central processes including behavior. OT from the posterior pituitary gland is released in pulses into the peripheral circulation. We hypothesized that peripherally administered OT, if delivered in repeated injections mimicking these pulses, would influence behavior. Male and female prairie voles received three subcutaneous injections of OT, a single injection of CT, or isotonic saline. Animals then were placed with an adult member of the opposite sex, designated as a 'partner,' for a 1-h period of cohabitation, and subsequently tested for preference for the familiar partner versus a comparable stranger. Females treated with pulses of peripheral OT (1, 5, or 20 mu g) displayed a significant preference for the partner compared to control females, while females receiving a lower dose of OT (0.1 mu g) Or a single injection (20 mu g) did not. There was also a significant within-group effect as pulsed CT-treated females spent more time with the partner when compared to the stranger, while control females spent equal amounts of time with the partner and stranger. Peripheral pulses of OT were no longer effective in inducing partner preferences when females were pretreated with a selective OT receptor antagonist, administered either peripherally or centrally. In contrast to females, peripheral treatment with OT did not facilitate the formation of partner preferences in males. (C) 2000 Academic Press


Cushing, BS., & Carter Porges, C. (2000). Peripheral pulses of oxytocin increase partner preferences in female, but not male, prairie voles. Hormones and Behavior, 37(1), 49-56. https://doi.org/10.1006/hbeh.1999.1558

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