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Talk by Ofer Yizhar

Oxytocin regulates maternally-directed behavior during early life

Date 15 December 2023
Research group Gazzola
Location Large Meeting Room of the NIN
Program 15:00

Oxytocin (OT) has been shown to play an essential role in regulating social behaviors. While the role of OT signaling in maternal care is widely investigated, little is known about its behavioral role during early life.  In mice, OT receptor (OTR) expression peaks during the second and third weeks of life, suggesting that OT signaling is important at this early age. We set out to explore the role of OT in the mother-infant interaction, a major generator of early-life sensory-social experience in mammals. Our experiments revealed a unique structure of early-life vocal communication in pups, which was modulated by interaction with the mother and sensitive to OT antagonists. To probe the role of OT in pup behavior with higher temporal precision, we developed an optogenetic approach for non-invasive photoinhibition in freely-moving pups. We found that silencing OT neurons alters the vocal behavior of pups during both separation and reunion. These findings reveal a new role for OT during early life, and open new avenues for neural circuit research at this fascinating age.

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