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Newly-Identified Prefrontal Cortex Oxytocin-Responsive Neurons Suggested As Key Regulators of Female Social & Sexual Behavior

oxytocin prefrontal cortex

A recent publication in the journal Cell reveals the discovery of a population of somatostatin positive, regular spiking interneurons that express the oxytocin receptor that are involved in the regulation of female social behavior in mice, highlighting the prefrontal cortex role in sexual behaviors.

The ‘love hormone’ oxytocin contributes to social and sex behaviors in humans. Previous research indicates that intranasal administration of the ‘prosocial’ hormone oxytocin activates the brain’s frontal cortex, but which cells are targeted by oxytocin, and how this hormone influences neural circuits is poorly understood.

Now, the Cell study emphasizes the importance of the prefrontal cortex in social and sexual behavior, and particularly the subpopulation of somatostatin-positive interneurons expressing the receptor for oxytocin .

In the study, researchers at The Rockefeller University in New York City found that this subpopulation of oxytocin-responsive neurons is required for female mice to show sexual interest in the male mice.

According to, the senior author Nathaniel Heintz stated that these findings may indicate that “this critical cell population may mediate other aspects of behavior in response to the elevated oxytocin levels that occur in a variety of different contexts”.

This may include social behaviors such as intimacy, love or mother-child bonding.

Source: Cell, 2014, 159:295-305. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2014.09.02

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