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Behav Neurosci. 1996 Jun;110(3):583-92.

Oxytocin mediates acquisition of maternally associated odor preferences in preweanling rat pups.

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Department of Psychology, Bowling Green State University, USA.


Three studies assessed the role of central oxytocin systems in maternal affiliation in preweanling rats. Fifteen-day-old rats were found to approach on odor faster and spend more time in contact with an odor when it had been paired with the mother on the previous day than when the odor was not paired with the mother, provided that the pairing occurred after either intracerebral administration of oxytocin (0.5 microgram) or saline. However, if rats were administered an oxytocin antagonist (OTA) prior to odor-mother pairing, neither the decreased odor approach latency nor the increased odor preference was apparent in the odor-mother group. OTA treatment did not attenuate a single-trial odor aversion learning task, nor did it disrupt interaction with the anesthetized mother. Results are discussed in terms of a possible reward-satiety role for oxytocin in the infant-mother context.

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