The hormone oxytocin (OT) is released both centrally and peripherally during and after mating. Although research in humans suggests a central role in sexuality, the most reliable findings to date involve peripheral activation. This review will discuss these results and will particularly focus on understanding the most recent findings from fMRI data and the effects of exogenous peripheral OT administration. We will then consider hypotheses of the roles played by central and systemic OT release as well as their control and modulation in the female, summarizing recent findings from animal research. Finally, we will discuss the contribution of OT to the initiation of pregnancy in rodents.
This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Oxytocin, Vasopressin, and Social Behavior.