Intranasal Oxytocin and Vasopressin Modulate Divergent Brainwide Functional Substrates

Alberto Galbusera, Alessia De Felice, Stefano Girardi, Giacomo Bassetto, Marta Maschietto, Katsuhiko Nishimori, Bice Chini, Francesco Papaleo, Stefano Vassanelli, Alessandro Gozzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


The neuropeptides oxytocin (OXT) and vasopressin (AVP) have been identified as modulators of emotional social behaviors and associated with neuropsychiatric disorders characterized by social dysfunction. Experimental and therapeutic use of OXT and AVP via the intranasal route is the subject of extensive clinical research. However, the large-scale functional substrates directly engaged by these peptides and their functional dynamics remain elusive. By using cerebral blood volume (CBV) weighted fMRI in the mouse, we show that intranasal administration of OXT rapidly elicits the transient activation of cortical regions and a sustained activation of hippocampal and forebrain areas characterized by high oxytocin receptor density. By contrast, intranasal administration of AVP produced a robust and sustained deactivation in cortico-parietal, thalamic and mesolimbic regions. Importantly, intravenous administration of OXT and AVP did not recapitulate the patterns of modulation produced by intranasal dosing, supporting a central origin of the observed functional changes. In keeping with this notion, hippocampal local field potential recordings revealed multi-band power increases upon intranasal OXT administration. We also show that the selective OXT-derivative TGOT reproduced the pattern of activation elicited by OXT and that the deletion of OXT receptors does not affect AVP-mediated deactivation. Collectively, our data document divergent modulation of brainwide neural systems by intranasal administration of OXT and AVP, an effect that involves key substrates of social and emotional behavior. The observed divergence calls for a deeper investigation of the systems-level mechanisms by which exogenous OXT and AVP modulate brain function and exert their putative therapeutic effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1420-1434
Number of pages15
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Jun 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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