Chronic icv oxytocin attenuates the pathological high anxiety state of selectively bred Wistar rats

D A Slattery, I D Neumann
Neuropharmacology 2010, 58 (1): 56-61
Central oxytocin (OXT) has been shown to promote numerous social behaviours, to attenuate hormonal stress responsiveness of the HPA axis and to decrease anxiety. Wistar rats selectively bred for high (HAB) and low (LAB) anxiety-related behaviour, respectively, have been shown to represent a suitable animal model to study the underlying aetiology of psychopathologies like anxiety- and depression-related disorders. The goal of the present studies was to assess the effects of central OXT on anxiety- and depression-related behaviour in male and female HAB and LAB rats. Acute icv OXT (1 microg) or OXT receptor antagonist (OXT-A; 0.75 microg) administration did not affect anxiety-related behaviour in male or female HAB and LAB rats as assessed in the light-dark box. In contrast, chronic icv OXT infusion (10 ng/h; 6 d) attenuated the high level of anxiety-related behaviour in female, but not male, HAB rats, whereas chronic OXT-A infusion (7.5 ng/h; 6 d) increased anxiety-related behaviour in female, but not male, LAB rats. Neither acute nor chronic manipulation of the OXT system altered depression-related behaviour as assessed by the forced swim test. Combined, these results suggest that pharmacological manipulation of the brain OXT system is effective to attenuate extremes in trait anxiety in an animal model of psychopathological anxiety. Moreover, the data indicate that differences in the activity of the brain OXT systems between HAB and LAB rats may, at least partially, contribute to the opposing anxiety but not depression-related behaviour.

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