Oxytocin (OT) is a neuropeptide which influences the expression of social behavior and regulates its distribution according to the social context - OT is associated with increased pro-social effects in the absence of social threat and defensive aggression when threats are present. The present experiments investigated the effects of OT beyond that of social behavior by using a discriminative Pavlovian fear conditioning protocol with rats. In Experiment 1, an OT receptor agonist (TGOT) microinjected into the basolateral amygdala facilitated the discrimination between an auditory cue that signaled shock and another auditory cue that signaled the absence of shock. This TGOT-facilitated discrimination was replicated in a second experiment where the shocked and non-shocked auditory cues were accompanied by a common visual cue. Conditioned responding on probe trials of the auditory and visual elements indicated that TGOT administration produced a qualitative shift in the learning mechanisms underlying the discrimination between the two compounds. This was confirmed by comparisons between the present results and simulated predictions of elemental and configural associative learning models. Overall, the present findings demonstrate that the neuromodulatory effects of OT influence behavior outside of the social domain.
- NHMRC 1088489