Involvement of the oxytocin system in the nucleus accumbens in the regulation of juvenile social novelty-seeking behavior

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Abstract

Exploration of novel environments, stimuli, and conspecifics is highly adaptive during the juvenile period, as individuals transition from immaturity to adulthood. We recently showed that juvenile rats prefer to interact with a novel individual over a familiar cage mate. However, the neural mechanisms underlying this juvenile social novelty-seeking behavior remain largely unknown. One potential candidate is the oxytocin (OXT) system, given its involvement in various motivated social behaviors. Here, we show that administration of the specific oxytocin receptor antagonist desGly-NH2,d(CH2)5-[Tyr(Me)2,Thr4]OVT reduces social novelty seeking-behavior in juvenile male rats when injected into the nucleus accumbens (10 ng/0.5 μl/side). The same drug dose was ineffective at altering social novelty-seeking behavior when administered into the lateral septum or basolateral amygdala. These results are the first to suggest the involvement of the OXT system in the nucleus accumbens in the regulation of juvenile social novelty-seeking behavior.

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