Oxytocin (OT) has been implicated in a variety of mammalian reproductive and social behaviors, and the use of intranasal OT for clinical purposes is on the rise. However, basic actions of OT, including the rewarding or reinforcing properties of the drug, are currently not fully understood. In this study, the authors investigated whether intranasally administered OT has different reinforcing properties for social and nonsocial stimuli and whether such effects are variable between male and female subjects. Conditioned social preference (CSP) and conditioned place preference (CPP) paradigms were used to examine social and nonsocial reinforcing properties of OT. In CSP, the presence of a same-sex unfamiliar conspecific was repeatedly paired with intranasal OT, while a different conspecific was associated with saline. The reinforcing effect of OT was assessed in a postconditioning choice test under a drug-free condition. In CPP, the 2 conspecifics were replaced with nonsocial black and white compartments. The authors found that intranasal OT (12 μg) in females supported the formation of CSP (Experiment 1) but not CPP (Experiment 3). Neither CSP (Experiment 2) nor CPP (Experiment 4) was formed in males. Extended conditioning with higher dose OT (36 μg), however, abolished the initial CSP in females and produced an aversion to the OT-paired stimulus mouse. Experiment 5 indicated that it was the repeated administrations rather than the higher dose that produced the abolition of the original preference. Overall, the current results demonstrate for the first time a sex- and stimulus-dependent reinforcing property of intranasal OT in mice.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Behavioral Neuroscience