Central vasopressin facilitates social recognition and modulates numerous complex social behaviors in mammals, including parental behavior, aggression, affiliation, and pair-bonding. In rodents, social interactions are primarily mediated by the exchange of olfactory information, and there is evidence that vasopressin signaling is important in brain areas where olfactory information is processed. We recently discovered populations of vasopressin neurons in the main and accessory olfactory bulbs and anterior olfactory nucleus that are involved in the processing of social odor cues. In this review, we propose a model of how vasopressin release in these regions, potentially from the dendrites, may act to filter social odor information to facilitate odor-based social recognition. Finally, we discuss recent human research linked to vasopressin signaling and suggest that our model of priming-facilitated vasopressin signaling would be a rewarding target for further studies, as a failure of priming may underlie pathological changes in complex behaviors.
© 2011 New York Academy of Sciences.