Oxytocin and vasopressin neural networks: Implications for social behavioral diversity and translational neuroscience

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2017 May;76(Pt A):87-98. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2017.01.034.


Oxytocin- and vasopressin-related systems are present in invertebrate and vertebrate bilaterian animals, including humans, and exhibit conserved neuroanatomical and functional properties. In vertebrates, these systems innervate conserved neural networks that regulate social learning and behavior, including conspecific recognition, social attachment, and parental behavior. Individual and species-level variation in central organization of oxytocin and vasopressin systems has been linked to individual and species variation in social learning and behavior. In humans, genetic polymorphisms in the genes encoding oxytocin and vasopressin peptides and/or their respective target receptors have been associated with individual variation in social recognition, social attachment phenotypes, parental behavior, and psychiatric phenotypes such as autism. Here we describe both conserved and variable features of central oxytocin and vasopressin systems in the context of social behavioral diversity, with a particular focus on neural networks that modulate social learning, behavior, and salience of sociosensory stimuli during species-typical social contexts.

Keywords: Autism spectrum disorders; Avpr1a; Functional connectivity; Functional coupling; Neuropeptides; Oxtr; Pair bonding; Salience; Social attachment; Social behavior; Social behavior network; Social cognition; Social decision-making network; Valence.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autistic Disorder
  • Humans
  • Nerve Net*
  • Oxytocin
  • Social Behavior*
  • Vasopressins


  • Vasopressins
  • Oxytocin