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      Oxytocin Enables Maternal Behavior by Balancing Cortical Inhibition

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          Oxytocin is important for social interactions and maternal behavior. However, little is known about when, where, and how oxytocin modulates neural circuits to improve social cognition. Here we show how oxytocin enables pup retrieval behavior in female mice by enhancing auditory cortical pup call responses. Retrieval behavior required left but not right auditory cortex, was accelerated by oxytocin in left auditory cortex, and oxytocin receptors were preferentially expressed in left auditory cortex. Neural responses to pup calls were lateralized, with co-tuned and temporally-precise excitatory and inhibitory responses in left cortex of maternal but not pup-naive adults. Finally, pairing calls with oxytocin enhanced responses by balancing the magnitude and timing of inhibition with excitation. Our results describe fundamental synaptic mechanisms by which oxytocin increases the salience of acoustic social stimuli. Furthermore, oxytocin-induced plasticity provides a biological basis for lateralization of auditory cortical processing.

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          Most cited references 60

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          A gene expression atlas of the central nervous system based on bacterial artificial chromosomes.

          The mammalian central nervous system (CNS) contains a remarkable array of neural cells, each with a complex pattern of connections that together generate perceptions and higher brain functions. Here we describe a large-scale screen to create an atlas of CNS gene expression at the cellular level, and to provide a library of verified bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) vectors and transgenic mouse lines that offer experimental access to CNS regions, cell classes and pathways. We illustrate the use of this atlas to derive novel insights into gene function in neural cells, and into principal steps of CNS development. The atlas, library of BAC vectors and BAC transgenic mice generated in this screen provide a rich resource that allows a broad array of investigations not previously available to the neuroscience community.
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            The oxytocin receptor system: structure, function, and regulation.

            The neurohypophysial peptide oxytocin (OT) and OT-like hormones facilitate reproduction in all vertebrates at several levels. The major site of OT gene expression is the magnocellular neurons of the hypothalamic paraventricular and supraoptic nuclei. In response to a variety of stimuli such as suckling, parturition, or certain kinds of stress, the processed OT peptide is released from the posterior pituitary into the systemic circulation. Such stimuli also lead to an intranuclear release of OT. Moreover, oxytocinergic neurons display widespread projections throughout the central nervous system. However, OT is also synthesized in peripheral tissues, e.g., uterus, placenta, amnion, corpus luteum, testis, and heart. The OT receptor is a typical class I G protein-coupled receptor that is primarily coupled via G(q) proteins to phospholipase C-beta. The high-affinity receptor state requires both Mg(2+) and cholesterol, which probably function as allosteric modulators. The agonist-binding region of the receptor has been characterized by mutagenesis and molecular modeling and is different from the antagonist binding site. The function and physiological regulation of the OT system is strongly steroid dependent. However, this is, unexpectedly, only partially reflected by the promoter sequences in the OT receptor gene. The classical actions of OT are stimulation of uterine smooth muscle contraction during labor and milk ejection during lactation. While the essential role of OT for the milk let-down reflex has been confirmed in OT-deficient mice, OT's role in parturition is obviously more complex. Before the onset of labor, uterine sensitivity to OT markedly increases concomitant with a strong upregulation of OT receptors in the myometrium and, to a lesser extent, in the decidua where OT stimulates the release of PGF(2 alpha). Experiments with transgenic mice suggest that OT acts as a luteotrophic hormone opposing the luteolytic action of PGF(2 alpha). Thus, to initiate labor, it might be essential to generate sufficient PGF(2 alpha) to overcome the luteotrophic action of OT in late gestation. OT also plays an important role in many other reproduction-related functions, such as control of the estrous cycle length, follicle luteinization in the ovary, and ovarian steroidogenesis. In the male, OT is a potent stimulator of spontaneous erections in rats and is involved in ejaculation. OT receptors have also been identified in other tissues, including the kidney, heart, thymus, pancreas, and adipocytes. For example, in the rat, OT is a cardiovascular hormone acting in concert with atrial natriuretic peptide to induce natriuresis and kaliuresis. The central actions of OT range from the modulation of the neuroendocrine reflexes to the establishment of complex social and bonding behaviors related to the reproduction and care of the offspring. OT exerts potent antistress effects that may facilitate pair bonds. Overall, the regulation by gonadal and adrenal steroids is one of the most remarkable features of the OT system and is, unfortunately, the least understood. One has to conclude that the physiological regulation of the OT system will remain puzzling as long as the molecular mechanisms of genomic and nongenomic actions of steroids have not been clarified.
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              Balanced inhibition underlies tuning and sharpens spike timing in auditory cortex.

              Neurons in the primary auditory cortex are tuned to the intensity and specific frequencies of sounds, but the synaptic mechanisms underlying this tuning remain uncertain. Inhibition seems to have a functional role in the formation of cortical receptive fields, because stimuli often suppress similar or neighbouring responses, and pharmacological blockade of inhibition broadens tuning curves. Here we use whole-cell recordings in vivo to disentangle the roles of excitatory and inhibitory activity in the tone-evoked responses of single neurons in the auditory cortex. The excitatory and inhibitory receptive fields cover almost exactly the same areas, in contrast to the predictions of classical lateral inhibition models. Thus, although inhibition is typically as strong as excitation, it is not necessary to establish tuning, even in the receptive field surround. However, inhibition and excitation occurred in a precise and stereotyped temporal sequence: an initial barrage of excitatory input was rapidly quenched by inhibition, truncating the spiking response within a few (1-4) milliseconds. Balanced inhibition might thus serve to increase the temporal precision and thereby reduce the randomness of cortical operation, rather than to increase noise as has been proposed previously.

                Author and article information

                13 March 2015
                15 April 2015
                23 April 2015
                23 October 2015
                : 520
                : 7548
                : 499-504
                [1 ]Skirball Institute for Biomolecular Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA
                [2 ]Neuroscience Institute, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA
                [3 ]Department of Otolaryngology, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA
                [4 ]Department of Neuroscience and Physiology, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA
                [5 ]Departments of Cell Biology, Psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA
                [6 ]Center for Neural Science, New York University, New York, NY, USA
                Author notes
                [* ]To whom correspondence should be addressed: Phone: 212-263-4082, robert.froemke@

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