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Oxytocin has dose-dependent developmental effects on pair-bonding and alloparental care in female prairie voles.


The present study examines the developmental consequences of neonatal exposure to oxytocin on adult social behaviors in female prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster). Female neonates were injected within 24 h of birth with isotonic saline or one of four dosages of oxytocin (OT). As adults, females were tested in an elevated plus-maze paradigm (a measure of anxiety and exploratory behavior), and for alloparental behavior and partner preferences. At 2 mg/kg OT, females took longer to approach pups, but were the only group to form a statistically significant within-group partner preference. At 4 mg/kg OT, females retrieved pups significantly more frequently but no longer displayed a partner preference; while females treated developmentally with 8 mg/kg spent significantly more time in side-to-side contact with a male stranger than any other treatment group. OT may have broad developmental consequences, but these effects are not linear and may both increase and decrease the propensity to display behaviors such as pair-bonding.

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