, Volume 106, Issue 1, pp 71–74 | Cite as

Low doses of oxytocin facilitate social recognition in rats

  • Piotr Popik
  • Jerzy Vetulani
  • Jan M. van Ree
Original Investigations


Social recognition of juveniles by adult male residents has been shown to be modulated by neurohypophyseal hormones. The decrease of social investigation behavior during a second encounter with the same juvenile serves as index for social recognition. In the present study it was found that low doses (0.09–6.0 ng · kg−1) of oxytocin (OXT) given subcutaneously dose dependently facilitated social recognition. The effect of OXT appeared specific, since no change in social investigation was found when a novel juvenile was tested during the second encounter. No disturbances of social recognition by the low doses of OXT could be detected, in contrast to higher doses of this hormone. Other neurohypophyseal hormones, vasopressin and vasotocin, did not facilitate social recognition when tested in the same range of low doses.

Key words

Oxytocin Social memory Social recognition Memory facilitation Neuropeptides 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bohus B, Urban I, Van Wimersma Greidanus TjB, De Wied D (1978) Opposite effects of oxytocin and vasopressin on avoidance behaviour and hippocampal theta rhythm in rats. Neuropharmacology 17:239–247Google Scholar
  2. Caldeyro-Barcia R, Melander S, Coch JA (1971) Neurohypophyseal hormones. In: Fuchs F, Klopper A (eds) Endocrinology of pregnancy. Harper & Row, New York, pp 235–285Google Scholar
  3. Dantzer R, Bluthe RM, Koob GF, Le Moal M (1987) Modulation of social memory in male rats by neurophypophyseal peptides. Psychopharmacology 91:363–368Google Scholar
  4. Dantzer R, Koob GF, Bluthe RM, Le Moal M (1988) Septal vasopressin modulates social memory in male rats. Brain Res 457:143–147Google Scholar
  5. De Wied D, Jolles J (1982) Neuropeptides derived from pro-opiocortin: behavioral, physiological, and neurochemical effects. Physiol Rev 62:976–1059Google Scholar
  6. De Wied D, Greven HM, Lande S, Witter A (1972) Dissociation of the behavioural and endocrine effects of lysine vasopressin by tryptic digestion. Br J Pharmacol 45:118–122Google Scholar
  7. De Wied D, Gaffori O, Burbach JPH, Kovács GL, Van Ree JM (1987) Structure activity relationship studies with C-terminal fragments of vasopressin and oxytocin on avoidance behaviors of rats. J Pharmacol Exp Ther 241:268–274Google Scholar
  8. De Wied D, Joëls M, Burbach JPH, De Jong W, De Kloet ER, Gaffori OWJ, Urban IJA, Van Ree JM, Van Wimersma Greidanus TB, Veldhuis HD, Versteeg DHG, Wiegant VM (1988) Vasopressin effects on the central nervous system. In: Negro-Vilar A, Conn PM (eds) Peptide hormones: effects and mechanism of action, vol. I. CRC Press, Boca Raton, pp 97–140Google Scholar
  9. Fitzpatrick RJ (1961) Blood concentration of oxytocin in labour. J Endocrinology 22:xix-xxGoogle Scholar
  10. Gibbs DM (1984) Dissociation of oxytocin, vasopressin and corticotropin secretion during different types of stress. Life Sci 35:487–491Google Scholar
  11. Higuchi T, Honda K, Fukuoka T, Negoro H, Wakabayashi K (1985) Release of oxytocin during suckling and parturition in the rat. J Endocrinol 105:339–346Google Scholar
  12. Kennett DJ, Devlin MC, Ferrier BM (1982) Influence of oxytocin on human memory processes: validation by a control study. Life Sci 31:273–275Google Scholar
  13. Koob GF (1987) Neuropeptides and memory. In: Iversen LL, Iversen SD, Snyder SH (eds) Handbook of psychopharmacology. Behavioral pharmacology, an update, vol. 19. Plenum Press, New York, pp 531–537Google Scholar
  14. Kumaresan P, Anandarangan PB, Dianzon W, Vasicka A (1974) Plasma oxytocin levels during human pregnancy and labour as determined by radioimmunoassay. Am J Obstet Gynecol 119:215–223Google Scholar
  15. LeMoal M, Dantzer R, Micheaud B, Koob FG (1987) Centrally injected arginine vasopressin (AVP) facilitates social memory in rats. Neurosci Lett 77:353–359Google Scholar
  16. McNeilly AS, Ducker AH, (1972) Blood levels of oxytocin in the female goats during coitus and in response to stimuli associated with mating. J Endocrinol 54:399–406Google Scholar
  17. Mens WBJ, Witter A, Van Wimersma Greidanus TjB (1983) Penetration of neurohypophyseal hormones from plasma into cerebrospinal fluid (CSF): half-times of disappearance of these neuropeptides from CSF. Brain Res 262:143–149Google Scholar
  18. Murphy MR, Seckl JR, Burton S, Checkley SA, Lightman SL (1987) Changes in oxytocin and vasopressin secretion during sexual activity in men. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 65:738–741Google Scholar
  19. Ogawa S, Kudo S, Kitsunai Y (1980) Increase in oxytocin secretion at ejaculation in male. Clin Endocrinol 13:95–97Google Scholar
  20. Popik P, Vetulani J (1991) Opposite action of oxytocin and its peptide antagonists on social memory in rats. Neuropeptides 18:23–27Google Scholar
  21. Popik P, Wolterink G, De Brabander H, Van Ree JM (1991) Neuropeptides related to (Arg8-vasopressin facilitates social recognition in rats. Physiol Behav (in press)Google Scholar
  22. Schulz H, Kovács GL, Telegdy G (1974) Effect of physiological doses of vasopressin and oxytocin on avoidance and exploratory behaviour in rats. Acta Physiol Sci Hung 45:211–215Google Scholar
  23. Stoneham MD, Everitt BJ, Hansen S, Todd K (1985) Oxytocin and sexual behaviour in the male rat and rabbit. J Endocrinol 107:97–106Google Scholar
  24. Thor DH, Holloway Jr WR (1986) Testosterone dependent effects of methylphenidate on social investigatory behavior of the rat. Physiol Behav 37:869–873Google Scholar
  25. Todd K (1986) Oxytocin release during coitus in male and female rabbits: effect of opiate receptor blockade with naloxone. Psychoneuroendocrinology 11:367–371Google Scholar
  26. Van Ree JM, Bohus B, Versteeg DHG, De Wied D (1978) Neurohypophyseal principles and memory processes. Biochem Pharmacol 27:1793–1800Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Piotr Popik
    • 1
  • Jerzy Vetulani
    • 1
  • Jan M. van Ree
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Pharmacology, Rudolf Magnus InstituteUniversity of UtrechtUtrechtThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations