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The peptide hormone oxytocin (OT) plays an important role in social behaviors, including social bond formation. In different contexts, however, OT is also associated with aggression, social selectivity, and reduced affiliation. Female meadow voles form social preferences for familiar same-sex peers under short, winter-like day lengths in the laboratory, and provide a means of studying affiliation outside the context of reproductive pair bonds. Multiple lines of evidence suggest that the actions of OT in the lateral septum (LS) may decrease affiliative behavior, including greater density of OT receptors in the LS of meadow voles that huddle less. We infused OT into the LS of female meadow voles immediately prior to cohabitation with a social partner to determine its effects on partner preference formation. OT prevented the formation of preferences for the partner female. Co-administration of OT with a specific OT receptor antagonist did not reverse the effect, but co-administration of OT with a specific vasopressin 1a receptor (V1aR) antagonist did, indicating that OT in the LS likely acted through V1aRs to decrease partner preference. Receptor autoradiography revealed dense V1aR binding in the LS of female meadow voles. These results suggest that the LS is a brain region that may be responsible for inhibitory effects of OT administration on affiliation, which will be important to consider in therapeutic administrations of OT.


Oxytocin, Vasopressin, Vasopressin 1a receptor, Meadow vole, Social behavior, Lateral septum



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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Licensed to Smith College and distributed CC-BY under the Smith College Faculty Open Access Policy.


Peer reviewed accepted manuscript.



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