Increased plasma levels of oxytocin in response to afferent electrical stimulation of the sciatic and vagal nerves and in response to touch and pinch in anaesthetized rats


Kerstin Uvn%äs-Moberg, Department of Pharmacology, Karolinska Institutet, Box 60400, S-104 01 Stockholm, Sweden


This study was performed in order to investigate whether activation of sensory fibres within the sciatic and vagal nerves might influence the release of oxytocin. In anaesthetized rats the sciatic and vagal nerves were stimulated electrically in an afferent direction with a variety of stimuli. Rats were also stroked on their backs or nociception was inflicted by pinching a foot. Plasma oxytocin levels were measured with a highly sensitive radioimmunoassay in samples drawn from the carotid artery. Afferent electrical stimulations of both sciatic and vagal nerves at 5 V, 0.2-2 ms and 3–10 Hz caused immediate significant elevations of oxytocin levels. Thus, basal levels increased by 30–184%. Furthermore, in response to touch and nociceptive stimuli, oxytocin levels rose by 181 % and 206%, respectively. These data indicate that oxytocin can be released by stimulation of peripheral nerves originating in the skin and/or muscle and in the gastrointestinal tract and thus these organs may be involved in the control of oxytocin secretion.