Oxytocin mediates rodent social memory within the lateral septum and the medial amygdala depending on the relevance of the social stimulus: male juvenile versus female adult conspecifics

Michael Lukas, Iulia Toth, Alexa H Veenema, Inga D Neumann
Psychoneuroendocrinology 2013, 38 (6): 916-26
Brain oxytocin (OXT) plays an important role in short-term social memory in laboratory rodents. Here we monitored local release of OXT and its functional involvement in the maintenance and retrieval of social memory during the social discrimination test. We further assessed, if the local effects of OXT within the medial amygdala (MeA) and lateral septum (LS) on social discrimination abilities were dependent on the biological relevance of the social stimulus, thus comparing male juvenile versus adult female conspecifics. OXT release was increased in the LS of male rats during the retrieval, but not during the acquisition or maintenance, of social memory for male juvenile stimuli. Blockade of OXT activity by intracerebroventricular (ICV) administration of a specific OXT receptor antagonist (OXTR-A, rats: 0.75 μg/5 μl, mice: 2 μg/2 μl) immediately after acquisition of social memory impaired the maintenance of social memory, and consequently discrimination abilities during retrieval of social memory. In contrast, ICV OXTR-A was without effect when administered 20 min prior to retrieval of social memory in both species. Non-social memory measured in the object discrimination test was not affected by ICV OXTR-A in male mice, indicating that brain OXT is mainly required for memory formation in a social context. The biological relevance of the social stimulus seems to importantly determine social memory abilities, as male rats recognized a previously encountered female adult stimulus for at least 2h (versus 60 min for male juveniles), with a region-dependent contribution of endogenous OXT; while bilateral administration of OXTR-A into the MeA (0.1 μg/1 μl) impaired social memory for adult females only, administration of OXTR-A into the LS via retrodialysis (10 μg/ml, 1.0 μl/min) impaired social memory for both male juveniles and female adults. Overall, these results indicate that brain OXT is a critical mediator of social memory in male rodents and that, depending on the biological relevance of the social stimulus, distinct brain regions are recruited to mediate its effects.

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