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      Oxytocin, Vasopressin, and the Neurogenetics of Sociality

      Science

      American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

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          Most cited references 22

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          Oxytocin modulates neural circuitry for social cognition and fear in humans.

          In non-human mammals, the neuropeptide oxytocin is a key mediator of complex emotional and social behaviors, including attachment, social recognition, and aggression. Oxytocin reduces anxiety and impacts on fear conditioning and extinction. Recently, oxytocin administration in humans was shown to increase trust, suggesting involvement of the amygdala, a central component of the neurocircuitry of fear and social cognition that has been linked to trust and highly expresses oxytocin receptors in many mammals. However, no human data on the effects of this peptide on brain function were available. Here, we show that human amygdala function is strongly modulated by oxytocin. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to image amygdala activation by fear-inducing visual stimuli in 15 healthy males after double-blind crossover intranasal application of placebo or oxytocin. Compared with placebo, oxytocin potently reduced activation of the amygdala and reduced coupling of the amygdala to brainstem regions implicated in autonomic and behavioral manifestations of fear. Our results indicate a neural mechanism for the effects of oxytocin in social cognition in the human brain and provide a methodology and rationale for exploring therapeutic strategies in disorders in which abnormal amygdala function has been implicated, such as social phobia or autism.
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            Oxytocin improves "mind-reading" in humans.

            The ability to "read the mind" of other individuals, that is, to infer their mental state by interpreting subtle social cues, is indispensable in human social interaction. The neuropeptide oxytocin plays a central role in social approach behavior in nonhuman mammals. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled, within-subject design, 30 healthy male volunteers were tested for their ability to infer the affective mental state of others using the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET) after intranasal administration of 24 IU oxytocin. Oxytocin improved performance on the RMET compared with placebo. This effect was pronounced for difficult compared with easy items. Our data suggest that oxytocin improves the ability to infer the mental state of others from social cues of the eye region. Oxytocin might play a role in the pathogenesis of autism spectrum disorder, which is characterized by severe social impairment.
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              Microsatellite instability generates diversity in brain and sociobehavioral traits.

              Repetitive microsatellites mutate at relatively high rates and may contribute to the rapid evolution of species-typical traits. We show that individual alleles of a repetitive polymorphic microsatellite in the 5' region of the prairie vole vasopressin 1a receptor (avpr1a) gene modify gene expression in vitro. In vivo, we observe that this regulatory polymorphism predicts both individual differences in receptor distribution patterns and socio-behavioral traits. These data suggest that individual differences in gene expression patterns may be conferred via polymorphic microsatellites in the cis-regulatory regions of genes and may contribute to normal variation in behavioral traits.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                10.1126/science.1158668
                18988842

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