Scientific article
Open access

Oxytocin neurons mediate the effect of social isolation via the VTA circuits

Published ineLife, vol. 11, e73421
Publication date2022-04-22
First online date2022-04-22

Social interaction during adolescence strongly influences brain function and behavior, and the recent pandemic has emphasized the devastating effect of social distancing on mental health. While accumulating evidence has shown the importance of the reward system in encoding specific aspects of social interaction, the consequences of social isolation on the reward system and the development of social skills later in adulthood are still largely unknown. Here, we found that 1 week of social isolation during adolescence in male mice increased social interaction at the expense of social habituation and social novelty preference. Behavioral changes were accompanied by the acute hyperexcitability of putative dopamine (pDA) neurons in the ventral tegmental area and long-lasting expression of GluA2-lacking AMPARs at excitatory inputs onto pDA neurons that project to the prefrontal cortex. Social isolation-dependent behavioral deficits and changes in neural activity and synaptic plasticity were reversed by chemogenetic inhibition of oxytocin neurons in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus. These results demonstrate that social isolation in male mice has acute and long-lasting effects on social interaction and suggest that homeostatic adaptations mediate these effects within the reward circuit.

  • GluA2-lacking AMPA receptors
  • VTA dopamine neurons
  • Adolescence social isolation
  • Mouse
  • Neuroscience
  • Oxytocin
  • Animals
  • Dopaminergic Neurons / physiology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Oxytocin / metabolism
  • Reward
  • Social Isolation
  • Ventral Tegmental Area
Citation (ISO format)
MUSARDO, Stefano et al. Oxytocin neurons mediate the effect of social isolation via the VTA circuits. In: eLife, 2022, vol. 11, p. e73421. doi: 10.7554/eLife.73421
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Article (Published version)
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ISSN of the journal2050-084X

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