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Curr Opin Pharmacol. 2008 Dec;8(6):731-4. doi: 10.1016/j.coph.2008.07.001. Epub 2008 Aug 6.

Oxytocin and the maternal brain.

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  • 1Centre for Integrative Physiology, College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.


Oxytocin released within the brain from both magnocellular and parvocellular systems of the hypothalamus has diverse effects on behavior. When oxytocin is released within the brain, its effects are to diminish fearfulness; this not only encourages social investigation of newcomers, but also may enhance a tendency to express aggression toward an intruder. Oxytocin supports social recognition, redirects behavior away from feeding directed behavior toward sexual behavior, and facilitates the formation of social bonds. This system, which depends not only upon release of oxytocin but also on oxytocin receptor distribution within the brain, becomes particularly important at parturition, when a bond is first formed between mother and offspring.

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