Oxytocin Reduces Amygdala Activity, Increases Social Interactions, and Reduces Anxiety-Like Behavior Irrespective of NMDAR Antagonism

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Standard dopamine therapies for schizophrenia are not efficacious for negative symptoms of the disease, including asociality. This reduced social behavior may be due to glutamatergic dysfunction within the amygdala, leading to increased fear and social anxiety. Several studies have demonstrated the prosocial effects of oxytocin in schizophrenia patients. Therefore, this study evaluates the effect of subchronic oxytocin on EEG activity in amygdala of mice during performance of the three-chamber social choice and open field tests following acute ketamine as a model of glutamatergic dysfunction. Oxytocin did not restore social deficits introduced by ketamine but did significantly increase sociality in comparison to the control group. Ketamine had no effect on time spent in the center during the open field trials, whereas oxytocin increased overall center time across all groups, suggesting a reduction in anxiety. Amygdala activity was consistent across all drug groups during social and nonsocial behavioral trials. However, oxytocin reduced overall amygdala EEG power during the two behavioral tasks. Alternatively, ketamine did not significantly affect EEG power throughout the tasks. Decreased EEG power in the amygdala, as caused by oxytocin, may be related to both reduced anxiety and increased social behaviors. Data suggest that separate prosocial and social anxiety pathways may mediate social preference.

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