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The role of oxytocin and vasopressin in conditioned mate guarding behavior in the female rat

Holley, Amanda, Bellevue, Shannon, Vosberg, Daniel, Wenzel, Kerstin, Roorda, Sieger, Pfaus, James G.
Physiology & behavior 2015 v.144 pp. 7-14
brain, females, males, neurons, oxytocin, rats, vasopressin
We have shown previously that female rats given their first copulatory experiences with the same male rat display mate guarding behavior in the presence of that male provided a female competitor is also present. Females given access to the familiar male show more Fos induction within regions of the brain that contain oxytocin (OT) and vasopressin (AVP) cell bodies, notably the supraoptic (SON) and paraventricular nuclei (PVN) relative to females given sexual experience with different males. The present experiments examined whether the Fos induction we previously observed within the SON and PVN occurred within OT and/or AVP neurons, and whether exogenous administration of OT or AVP prior to female rats first sexual experience could potentiate the acquisition of mate guarding behavior. Female rats that display conditioned mate guarding had significantly more double-labeled Fos/OT neurons in both SON and PVN, and significantly more Fos/AVP neurons in the PVN. Peripheral administration of OT or AVP prior to their first sexual experience with the familiar male facilitated different aspects of mate guarding: OT augmented affiliative behaviors and presenting responses whereas AVP augmented interference behavior. These results indicate that female rats' first experiences with sexual reward when paired with the same male induce changes to bonding networks in the brain. Moreover peripheral administration of OT or AVP during their first sexual experience can augment different aspects of mate guarding behavior.