Meaningful social interactions modify behavioral responses to sensory stimuli. The neural mechanisms underlying the entrainment of neutral sensory stimuli to salient social cues to produce social learning remain unknown. We used odor-driven behavioral paradigms to ask if oxytocin, a neuropeptide implicated in various social behaviors, plays a crucial role in the formation of learned associations between odor and socially significant cues. Through genetic, optogenetic, and pharmacological manipulations, we show that oxytocin receptor signaling is crucial for entrainment of odor to social cues but is dispensable for entrainment to nonsocial cues. Furthermore, we demonstrate that oxytocin directly impacts the piriform, the olfactory sensory cortex, to mediate social learning. Lastly, we provide evidence that oxytocin plays a role in both appetitive and aversive social learning. These results suggest that oxytocin conveys saliency of social stimuli to sensory representations in the piriform cortex during odor-driven social learning.
Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.