Effects of chronic intranasal oxytocin on behavior and cerebral glucose uptake in juvenile titi monkeys

Rocío Arias del Razo, Trish Berger, Alan J. Conley, Sara M. Freeman, Leana R. Goetze, Suma Jacob, Rebecca H. Lawrence, Sally P. Mendoza, Emily S. Rothwell, Logan E. Savidge, Marjorie Solomon, Tamara A.R. Weinstein, Lynea R. Witczak, Karen L. Bales

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12 Scopus citations


Intranasal oxytocin (IN OXT) has been proposed as a treatment for autism spectrum disorder (ASD); however, little is known about the effects of long-term exposure. This is the first study in a non-human primate species to examine how developmental exposure to chronic IN OXT affects juvenile's interactions with family members, social preference for parents versus strangers, anxiety-like behavior, and cerebral glucose metabolism. Titi monkeys are socially monogamous and biparental; their family bonds share important characteristics with human family bonds. Fourteen males and 15 females were treated intranasally with saline (n = 14) or 0.8 IU/kg OXT (n = 15), daily from 12 to 18 months of age. Compared to SAL-treated animals, OXT-treated animals of both sexes spent significantly more time grooming other family members (F1 = 8.97, p = 0.006). Overall, OXT-treated subjects were more social (F1 = 8.35, p = 0.005) during preference tests. OXT-treated females displayed an enhanced preference for their parents (t = 2.265, p = 0.026). OXT-treated males had a blunted preference for their parents and an increase in the time spent near unfamiliar pairs (F1 = 10.89, p = 0.001). During anxiety tests, OXT-treated males refused to complete the task more often than SAL-treated males and had longer latencies (p < 0.0001). Neuroimaging studies revealed that OXT-treated animals had higher glucose uptake across the social salience network as a whole after one month of treatment (F1,9 = 1.07, p = 0.042). Our results suggest moderate prosocial effects of chronic IN OXT, that did not depend on anxiolytic properties. We also found important sex differences that should be considered in a translational context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104494
StatePublished - Mar 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We gratefully acknowledge the following for contributions to this project: Rebecca Cotterman, Fang-Shiuan Leung, Charles Smith, Doug Rowland, Rich Larson, Veterinary Staff, Jaleh Janatpour and Kevin Theis, Benjamin Regan, Charlotte McLean, Sarah Carp, and Bales lab volunteers. We thank the editor and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments, which improved this manuscript. This research was supported by NICHD grant HD071998 , NIH grant OD011107 to the CNPRC, UC Mexus, and the Good Nature Institute. Appendix A

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019


  • Anxiety
  • Autism
  • Chronic
  • Imaging
  • Intranasal oxytocin
  • Social behavior


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