Dopamine and Oxytocin Interactions Underlying Behaviors: Potential Contributions to Behavioral Disorders

Authors


Correspondence
Dr. Tracey Baskerville, Division of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Glasgow, Garscube Estate, Bearsden Road, Glasgow G12 8QQ
Tel.: (141) 330-7103;
Fax: (141) 943-0215;
E-mail: tab3b@clinmed.gla.ac.uk

Abstract

Dopamine is an important neuromodulator that exerts widespread effects on the central nervous system (CNS) function. Disruption in dopaminergic neurotransmission can have profound effects on mood and behavior and as such is known to be implicated in various neuropsychiatric behavioral disorders including autism and depression. The subsequent effects on other neurocircuitries due to dysregulated dopamine function have yet to be fully explored. Due to the marked social deficits observed in psychiatric patients, the neuropeptide, oxytocin is emerging as one particular neural substrate that may be influenced by the altered dopamine levels subserving neuropathologic-related behavioral diseases. Oxytocin has a substantial role in social attachment, affiliation and sexual behavior. More recently, it has emerged that disturbances in peripheral and central oxytocin levels have been detected in some patients with dopamine-dependent disorders. Thus, oxytocin is proposed to be a key neural substrate that interacts with central dopamine systems. In addition to psychosocial improvement, oxytocin has recently been implicated in mediating mesolimbic dopamine pathways during drug addiction and withdrawal. This bi-directional role of dopamine has also been implicated during some components of sexual behavior. This review will discuss evidence for the existence dopamine/oxytocin positive interaction in social behavioral paradigms and associated disorders such as sexual dysfunction, autism, addiction, anorexia/bulimia, and depression. Preliminary findings suggest that whilst further rigorous testing has to be conducted to establish a dopamine/oxytocin link in human disorders, animal models seem to indicate the existence of broad and integrated brain circuits where dopamine and oxytocin interactions at least in part mediate socio-affiliative behaviors. A profound disruption to these pathways is likely to underpin associated behavioral disorders. Central oxytocin pathways may serve as a potential therapeutic target to improve mood and socio-affiliative behaviors in patients with profound social deficits and/or drug addiction.

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