Hypothalamic oxytocin and vasopressin have sex-specific effects on pair bonding, gregariousness, and aggression

This 2014 bird study showed the complementary effects of neurochemicals vasopressin and oxytocin in the hypothalamus.

Oxytocin neurons in the hypothalamus promote pair bonding and gregariousness in females.

Vasopressin neurons in the hypothalamus promote maternal care, social recognition, and gregariousness in both males and females, and aggression in males toward females.

Vasopressin and oxytocin released generally and in other parts of the brain have different effects. For example:

“Central administration of oxytocin also attenuates stress-induced effects on the brain and reverses stress-induced social avoidance.”

http://www.pnas.org/content/111/16/6069.full “Hypothalamic oxytocin and vasopressin neurons exert sex-specific effects on pair bonding, gregariousness, and aggression in finches”

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How oxytocin and vasopressin were repurposed through evolution to serve social functions

This 2013 primate summary study showed how nonsocial behaviors, neurology and neurochemicals were repurposed through evolution to serve social functions.

Oxytocin and vasopressin retained their:

  • water regulation,
  • reproduction, and
  • anxiety relief

functionalities while they also evolved to become instrumental in:

  • pair-bonding,
  • parental care,
  • selective aggression,
  • social prominence,
  • generosity, and
  • trust.

http://www.pnas.org/content/110/Supplement_2/10387.full “Neuroethology of primate social behavior”