Oxytocin Signaling in the Lateral Septum Prevents Social Fear during Lactation

Rohit Menon, Thomas Grund, Iulia Zoicas, Ferdinand Althammer, Dominik Fiedler, Verena Biermeier, Oliver J. Bosch, Yuichi Hiraoka, Katsuhiko Nishimori, Marina Eliava, Valery Grinevich, Inga D. Neumann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Citations (Scopus)


Oxytocin (OXT)-mediated behavioral responses to social and stressful cues have extensively been studied in male rodents. Here, we investigated the capacity of brain OXT receptor (OXTR) signaling in the lateral septum (LS) to prevent social fear expression in female mice using the social-fear-conditioning paradigm. Utilizing the activated OXT system during lactation, we show that lactating mice did not express fear 24 hr after social fear conditioning. Supporting the role of OXTR signaling in the LS in attenuation of social fear, synthetic OXT infusion or overexpression of OXTR in the LS diminished social fear expression, whereas constitutive OXTR knockout severely impaired social fear extinction in virgin mice. Subsequently, both pharmacological blockade of local OXTRs in the LS and chemogenetic silencing of supraoptic nucleus OXTergic afferents to the LS increased social fear expression in lactating mice. Hence, LS-projecting OXT neurons suppress social fear in female mice. The highest activity of the brain oxytocin (OXT) system is found in lactation. Menon and co-authors show that specific OXT projections from the hypothalamus to the lateral septum (LS)—the integrating brain structure orchestrating social behavior—prevent fear expression in social-fear-conditioned lactating mice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1066-1078.e6
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Apr 2


  • GABA
  • chemogenetics
  • cued fear conditioning
  • hypothalamus
  • lactation
  • lateral septum
  • oxytocin receptor
  • paraventricular nucleus
  • social fear conditioning
  • supraoptic nucleus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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