Release of oxytocin in the rat central amygdala modulates stress-coping behavior and the release of excitatory amino acids

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2005 Feb;30(2):223-30. doi: 10.1038/sj.npp.1300607.


Previous experiments have indicated that the release of oxytocin (OXT) occurs in various hypothalamic and extrahypothalamic brain areas. In the present study, we investigated in male rats whether swim stress triggers the release of OXT in the central amygdala (CeA), a key area in processing emotions and stress responses. Further, we examined the physiological significance of OXT released within the CeA for behavioral responses during forced swimming as well as effects on the local release of selected amino acids including glutamate, aspartate, arginine, taurine, and GABA, which are thought to modulate processing of emotions. Exposure to a 10-min forced swimming session caused a significant increase in OXT release (200%, p<0.01) within, but not outside, the CeA as monitored by microdialysis. Administration of the OXT receptor antagonist des-Gly-NH2d(CH2)5(Tyr(Me)2Thr4)OVT via inverse microdialysis into the amygdala before and during exposure to swimming reduced the floating time by 55% (p<0.05) and increased the swimming time by 29% (p<0.05) indicative of a more active stress-coping strategy. Simultaneously, local administration of the OXT receptor antagonist caused a significant increase in the stress-induced release of the excitatory amino acids glutamate and aspartate, whereas the basal release of these amino acids remained unchanged. Taken together, these findings demonstrate a significant activation of the oxytocinergic system in the CeA in response to swim stress. Furthermore, our data indicate that OXT receptor-mediated mechanisms within the amygdala are involved in the generation of passive stress-coping strategies, which might be mediated at least in part via its inhibitory influence on the local release of excitatory amino acids during stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological / physiology*
  • Amygdala / anatomy & histology
  • Amygdala / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Excitatory Amino Acids / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Microdialysis
  • Oxytocin / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptors, Oxytocin / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Stress, Psychological / metabolism*
  • Swimming / psychology


  • Excitatory Amino Acids
  • Receptors, Oxytocin
  • Oxytocin