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J Comp Neurol. 2017 Aug 1;525(11):2549-2570. doi: 10.1002/cne.24216. Epub 2017 May 8.

Quantitative mapping reveals age and sex differences in vasopressin, but not oxytocin, immunoreactivity in the rat social behavior neural network.

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Neurobiology of Social Behavior Laboratory, Department of Psychology, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.


The neuropeptides vasopressin (AVP) and oxytocin (OT) have been implicated in the regulation of numerous social behaviors in adult and juvenile animals. AVP and OT signaling predominantly occur within a circuit of interconnected brain regions known collectively as the "social behavior neural network" (SBNN). Importantly, AVP and OT signaling within the SBNN has been shown to differentially regulate diverse social behaviors, depending on the age and/or sex of the animal. We hypothesized that variation in the display of these behaviors is due in part to age and sex differences in AVP and OT synthesis within the SBNN. However, a thorough characterization of AVP and OT-immunoreactive (ir) fibers and cell bodies across age and sex within the SBNN has been lacking in rats. We therefore quantified AVP- and OT-ir fibers and cell bodies in 22 subregions of the forebrain SBNN in juvenile and adult, male and female rats. We found numerous age (16 subregions) and sex (10 subregions) differences in AVP-ir fiber fractional areas, and AVP-ir cell body numbers, which were mainly observed in the medial amygdala/bed nucleus of the stria terminalis to lateral septum circuit. In contrast to AVP, we observed no age or sex differences in OT-ir fiber fractional areas or cell bodies in any of the 22 subregions of the forebrain SBNN. Thus, unlike the static pattern observed for OT, AVP innervation of the forebrain SBNN appears to undergo developmental changes, and is highly sexually dimorphic, which likely has significant functional consequences for the regulation of social behavior.


RRID: AB_2313960; RRID: AB_2315026; RRID: AB_2336170; age differences; juvenile; oxytocin; sex differences; social behavior; vasopressin

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