Oxytocin and vasopressin increase male-directed threats and vocalizations in female macaques

Sci Rep. 2018 Dec 20;8(1):18011. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-36332-0.


In a previous study, we reported that intranasal delivery of both oxytocin (OT) and arginine vasopressin (AVP) to male macaques relaxes spontaneous social interactions, flattens the existing dominance hierarchy, and increases behavioral synchrony with other monkeys. Here we report that intranasal OT and AVP administration modulates the behaviors of female macaque monkeys, but in robustly different ways from males. Most notably, both neuropeptides increase threatening and vocalization behaviors of females when they encounter males, and these behaviors effectively increase the social status of females over males. While OT and AVP heighten the confrontational nature of intersexual encounters, both peptides relax interactions between females. Finally, as previously reported for males, treating an individual female monkey with OT or AVP significantly modulates the behavior of her non-treated partner. Together, these findings show that OT and AVP can either inhibit or promote aggression, depending on sex and behavioral context, and call for a more careful, systematic examination of the functions of these neuropeptides in both sexes, especially in the context of therapeutics for human social disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Intranasal
  • Aggression / drug effects*
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Oxytocin / administration & dosage
  • Oxytocin / pharmacology*
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Behavior
  • Social Dominance*
  • Territoriality
  • Vasopressins / administration & dosage
  • Vasopressins / pharmacology*
  • Vocalization, Animal / drug effects*


  • Vasopressins
  • Oxytocin