The Oxytocin-Vasopressin Pathway in the Context of Love and Fear.

Author: Carter CS1
Affiliation: <sup>1</sup>Kinsey Institute and Department of Biology, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, United States.
Conference/Journal: Front Endocrinol (Lausanne).
Date published: 2017 Dec 22
Other: Volume ID: 8 , Pages: 356 , Special Notes: doi: 10.3389/fendo.2017.00356. eCollection 2017. , Word Count: 222

Vasopressin (VP) and oxytocin (OT) are distinct molecules; these peptides and their receptors [OT receptor (OTR) and V1a receptor (V1aR)] also are evolved components of an integrated and adaptive system, here described as the OT-VP pathway. The more ancient peptide, VP, and the V1aRs support individual survival and play a role in defensive behaviors, including mobilization and aggression. OT and OTRs have been associated with positive social behaviors and may function as a biological metaphor for social attachment or "love." However, complex behavioral functions, including selective sexual behaviors, social bonds, and parenting require combined activities of OT and VP. The behavioral effects of OT and VP vary depending on perceived emotional context and the history of the individual. Paradoxical or contextual actions of OT also may reflect differential interactions with the OTR and V1aR. Adding to the complexity of this pathway is the fact that OT and VP receptors are variable, across species, individuals, and brain region, and these receptors are capable of being epigenetically tuned. This variation may help to explain experience-related individual and sex differences in behaviors that are regulated by these peptides, including the capacity to form social attachments and the emotional consequences of these attachments.

KEYWORDS: aggression; attachment; love; oxytocin; oxytocin receptor; prairie voles; vasopressin; vasopressin receptor subtype 1a

PMID: 29312146 PMCID: PMC5743651 DOI: 10.3389/fendo.2017.00356