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Brain Res. 2014 Sep 11;1580:8-21. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2014.01.019. Epub 2014 Jan 30.

Oxytocin and vasopressin modulation of the neural correlates of motivation and emotion: results from functional MRI studies in awake rats.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Florida McKnight Brain Institute, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA. Electronic address:
Center for Translational Neuroimaging, Northeastern University, Boston, MA 02115, USA; Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Northeastern University, Boston, MA 02115, USA; Department of Psychology, Northeastern University, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Oxytocin and vasopressin modulate a range of species typical behavioral functions that include social recognition, maternal-infant attachment, and modulation of memory, offensive aggression, defensive fear reactions, and reward seeking. We have employed novel functional magnetic resonance mapping techniques in awake rats to explore the roles of these neuropeptides in the maternal and non-maternal brain. Results from the functional neuroimaging studies that are summarized here have directly and indirectly confirmed and supported previous findings. Oxytocin is released within the lactating rat brain during suckling stimulation and activates specific subcortical networks in the maternal brain. Both vasopressin and oxytocin modulate brain regions involved unconditioned fear, processing of social stimuli and the expression of agonistic behaviors. Across studies there are relatively consistent brain networks associated with internal motivational drives and emotional states that are modulated by oxytocin and vasopressin. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Oxytocin and Social Behav.


Addiction; Aggression; Aggressive behavior; Anxiety; Autism; Awake rat imaging; BOLD fMRI; Fear; Functional MRI; Maternal attachment; Maternal rat; Oxytocin; Rat; Vasopressin

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