Oxytocin and the Female Brain

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All sorts of brainy things appearing today.

In separate experiments in adult female mice with no pups — and hence no experience with elevated oxytocin levels — adding extra oxytocin into their “virgin” brains led these mice to quickly recognize the barely audible distress calls of another mother’s pups recently removed from their home nest. These adult mice quickly learned to set about fetching the pups, picking them up by the scruffs of their necks and returning them to the nest — all as if they were the pups’ real mother.

This learned behavior was permanent, researchers say; the mice with no offspring continued to retrieve pups even when their oxytocin receptors were later blocked.

According to lead study investigator Bianca Marlin, PhD, a postdoctoral research fellow at NYU Langone: “It was remarkable to watch how adding oxytocin shifted animal behavior, as mice that didn’t know how to perform a social task could suddenly do it perfectly.”

Hormone teaches maternal brain to respond to offspring’s needs


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