Oxytocin (OT) is a great facilitator of social life but, although its effects on socially relevant brain regions have been extensively studied, OT neuron activity during actual social interactions remains unexplored. Most OT neurons are magnocellular neurons, which simultaneously project to the pituitary and forebrain regions involved in social behaviors. In the present study, we show that a much smaller population of OT neurons, parvocellular neurons that do not project to the pituitary but synapse onto magnocellular neurons, is preferentially activated by somatosensory stimuli. This activation is transmitted to the larger population of magnocellular neurons, which consequently show coordinated increases in their activity during social interactions between virgin female rats. Selectively activating these parvocellular neurons promotes social motivation, whereas inhibiting them reduces social interactions. Thus, parvocellular OT neurons receive particular inputs to control social behavior by coordinating the responses of the much larger population of magnocellular OT neurons.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2020, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature America, Inc.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- General Neuroscience