Oxytocin activates the postpartum onset of rat maternal behavior in the ventral tegmental and medial preoptic areas

Behav Neurosci. 1994 Dec;108(6):1163-71. doi: 10.1037//0735-7044.108.6.1163.


Oxytocin binding (Bmax) was found to be higher in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and the medial preoptic area (MPOA) at midparturition compared with Pregnancy Days 15-17 or Postpartum Days 5-7 in rat dams. Pup retrieval and assuming a nursing posture over pups were blocked in parturient dams by infusions of an oxytocin antagonist into the VTA or MPOA and by infusions of a vasopressin (V1) antagonist into the MPOA. These results implicate oxytocin in the VTA and MPOA and vasopressin in the MPOA, as well as a parturition-associated rise in oxytocin binding in these sites in the postpartum activation of maternal behavior.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • Female
  • Labor, Obstetric / physiology
  • Lactation / physiology
  • Maternal Behavior / physiology*
  • Oxytocin / physiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Animal / physiology*
  • Preoptic Area / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Vasopressins / physiology
  • Ventral Tegmental Area / physiology*


  • Vasopressins
  • Oxytocin