Involvement of the brain oxytocin system in stress coping: interactions with the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis

Prog Brain Res. 2002;139:147-62. doi: 10.1016/s0079-6123(02)39014-9.


In response to various ethologically relevant stressors, oxytocin is released not only from neurohypophysial terminals into the blood, but also within distinct brain regions, for example the hypothalamic supraoptic and paraventricular nuclei, the septum and the amygdala in dependence on the quality and intensity of the stressor. Thus, oxytocin secretory activity may accompany the response of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis to a given stressor. In the present chapter, I try to summarize our efforts to reveal the physiological significance of intracerebrally released oxytocin in rats with respect to the regulation of the HPA axis under basal and stress conditions as well as with respect to behavioural stress responses. The effects of oxytocin appear to depend on the brain region studied and the state of activity of the animal (basal versus stress). In order to reveal interactions between the oxytocin system and the HPA axis, preliminary results are presented pointing towards a differential action of glucocorticoids on intracerebral and peripheral oxytocin release.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Animals
  • Anxiety Disorders / physiopathology
  • Brain / physiology
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiology*
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / physiology*
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / physiopathology
  • Rats
  • Social Behavior
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*