Cell and Tissue Research

, Volume 375, Issue 1, pp 57–68 | Cite as

Neuromodulation of maternal circuits by oxytocin

  • Silvana Valtcheva
  • Robert C. FroemkeEmail author


Motherhood in mammals involves tremendous changes throughout the body and central nervous system, which support attention and nurturing of infants. Maternal care consists of complex behaviors, such as nursing and protection of the offspring, requiring new mothers to become highly sensitive to infant needs. Long-lasting neural plasticity in various regions of the cerebral cortex may enable the perception and recognition of infant cues, important for appropriate caregiving responses. Recent findings have demonstrated that the neuropeptide oxytocin is involved in a number of physiological processes, including parturition and lactation and dynamically shaping neuronal responses to infant stimuli as well. Here, we review experience-dependent changes within the cortex occurring throughout motherhood, focusing on plasticity of the somatosensory and auditory cortex. We outline the role of oxytocin in gating cortical plasticity and discuss potential mechanisms regulating oxytocin release in response to different sensory stimuli.


Cortex Lactation Nursing Oxytocin Plasticity 


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Skirball Institute for Biomolecular MedicineNew York University School of MedicineNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Neuroscience InstituteNew York University School of MedicineNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Department of OtolaryngologyNew York University School of MedicineNew YorkUSA
  4. 4.Department of Neuroscience and PhysiologyNew York University School of MedicineNew YorkUSA
  5. 5.Howard Hughes Medical Institute Faculty ScholarNew York University School of MedicineNew YorkUSA

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