Role of oxytocin and vasopressin in the transitions of weaning in the rat

A. Kavushansky, M. Leshem

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sucklings (18-day-old) and weanlings (35-day-old) were injected icv with oxytocin or its antagonist (both 0.5 μg/l μl), or vasopressin (1.0 μg/l μl) or its antagonist (100 μg/l μl), prior to 4-min observation in a behavioral maze with a sibling in one box and their anesthetized dam in the other. Oxytocin abolished nipple attachment in sucklings, decreased time spent with the dam, and increased self-grooming. The oxytocin antagonist had little influence on behavior. Vasopressin increased self-grooming while its antagonist reduced passive contact with the dam, increased active contact with her, and increased exploration and activity. We conclude that these neuropeptides have diverse roles during weaning, maintaining sucklings' behavior or promoting weaning, and subserving the transition from attachment to the dam to independence from her. We propose that these neurochemicals, and others, mediate the neural, affiliative, and affective changes of weaning, and that the term "weaning" should be understood to encompass these behavioral transitions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-238
Number of pages8
JournalDevelopmental Psychobiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2004


  • Affiliation
  • Attachment
  • Development
  • Grooming
  • Nipple attachment
  • Oxytocin
  • Rat
  • Rat pups
  • Vasopressin
  • Weaning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Developmental Biology


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