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Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 1996 Autumn;20(3):341-58.

Behavioral consequences of intracerebral vasopressin and oxytocin: focus on learning and memory.

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Department of Neuroendocrinology, Clinical Institute, Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, Munich, Germany.


Since the pioneering work of David de Wied and his colleagues, the neuropeptides arginine vasopressin and oxytocin have been thought to play a pivotal role in behavioral regulation in general, and in learning and memory in particular. The present review focuses on the behavioral effects of intracerebral arginine vasopressin and oxytocin, with particular emphasis on the role of these neuropeptides as signals in interneuronal communication. We also discuss several methodological approaches that have been used to reveal the importance of these intracerebral neuropeptides as signals within signaling cascades. The literature suggests that arginine vasopressin improves, and oxytocin impairs, learning and memory. However, a critical analysis of the subject indicates the necessity for a revision of this generalized concept. We suggest that, depending on the behavioral test and the brain area under study, these endogenous neuropeptides are differentially involved in behavioral regulation; thus, generalizations derived from a single behavioral task should be avoided. In particular, recent studies on rodents indicate that socially relevant behaviors triggered by olfactory stimuli and paradigms in which the animals have to cope with an intense stressor (e.g., foot-shock motivated active or passive avoidance) are controlled by both arginine vasopressin and oxytocin released intracerebrally.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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