The Action Radius of Oxytocin Release in the Mammalian CNS: From Single Vesicles to Behavior

Bice Chini, Matthijs Verhage, Valery Grinevich

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The hypothalamic neuropeptide oxytocin (OT) has attracted the attention both of the scientific community and a general audience because of its prosocial effects in mammals, and OT is now seen as a facilitator of mammalian species propagation. Furthermore, OT is a candidate for the treatment of social deficits in several neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental conditions. Despite such possibilities and a long history of studies on OT behavioral effects, the mechanisms of OT actions in the brain remain poorly understood. In the present review, based on anatomical, biochemical, electrophysiological, and behavioral studies, we propose a novel model of local OT actions in the central nervous system (CNS) via focused axonal release, which initiates intracellular signaling cascades in specific OT-sensitive neuronal populations and coordinated brain region-specific behaviors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)982-991
Number of pages10
JournalTrends in Pharmacological Sciences
Issue number11
Early online date9 Sept 2017
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017


The authors thank Dr Gareth Leng for extensive and insightful discussions on Box 1 , Dr Niels Cornelisse for reviewing the calculations in Box 1 , and Thomas Splettstoesser (SciStyle; ) for artistic work. The work was supported by a Thyssen Foundation grant to B.C. and V.G., a European Research Council advanced grant (ERC-Adv 322966 ) to M.V., and by Schaller Research Foundation SFB 1134 and 1158 , Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)-ANR (GR 3619/701 ), and Human Frontiers Science Program grants to V.G.

FundersFunder number
Human Frontiers Science Program
Schaller Research Foundation1158, SFB 1134
Thyssen Foundation
European Research CouncilERC-Adv 322966
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
Agence Nationale de la RechercheGR 3619/701


    • Animals
    • Axons
    • Behavior
    • Central Nervous System
    • Humans
    • Journal Article
    • Oxytocin
    • Review
    • Secretory Vesicles


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