Extrahypothalamic oxytocin neurons drive stress-induced social vigilance and avoidance

Natalia Duque-Wilckens, Lisette Y. Torres, Sae Yokoyama, Vanessa A. Minie, Amy M. Tran, Stela P. Petkova, Rebecca Hao, Stephanie Ramos-Maciel, Roberto A. Rios, Kenneth Jackson, Francisco J. Flores-Ramirez, Israel Garcia-Carachure, Patricia A. Pesavento, Sergio D. Iniguez, Valery Grinevich, Brian C Trainor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Oxytocin increases the salience of both positive and negative social contexts and it is thought that these diverse actions on behavior are mediated in part through circuit-specific action. This hypothesis is based primarily on manipulations of oxytocin receptor function, leaving open the question of whether different populations of oxytocin neurons mediate different effects on behavior. Here we inhibited oxytocin synthesis in a stress-sensitive population of oxytocin neurons specifically within the medioventral bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNSTmv). Oxytocin knockdown prevented social stress-induced increases in social vigilance and decreases in social approach. Viral tracing of BNSTmv oxytocin neurons revealed fibers in regions controlling defensive behaviors, including lateral hypothalamus, anterior hypothalamus, and anteromedial BNST (BNSTam). Oxytocin infusion into BNSTam in stress naïve mice increased social vigilance and reduced social approach. These results show that a population of extrahypothalamic oxytocin neurons plays a key role in controlling stress-induced social anxiety behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)26406-26413
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number42
StatePublished - Oct 20 2020


  • Anxiety
  • Bed nucleus of the stria terminalis
  • California mouse
  • Extended amygdala
  • Morpholino

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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