Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Dr. Marlin: Oxytocin is a hormone that plays an important role in the expression of social and parental behaviors, but little is know about how it works in the brain to produce these behaviors. Virgin mice will usually ignore, and sometimes cannibalize newborn mouse pups. Our study has shown that oxytocin works in the auditory cortex of virgin mice to change both their neural responses, and eventually their behaviors, to mirror the maternal response.
Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr. Marlin: Clinicians and patients can appreciate that our results show that auditory brain areas change based on social experience, and these changes are mediated by the release of oxytocin. Understanding how oxytocin works in the brain to improve social interactions could be an important place to start exploring pathologies associated with social behaviors.
Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Marlin: There are always questions to be asked in reference to parental behaviors- How are male mice affected by oxytocin? Can oxytocin be used to improve parental car in humans? Research build on the findings in this study could help scientist, bringing us a step closer to answering these questions. I am excited to see where the field goes given this new information!
Bianca J. Marlin, Mariela Mitre, James A. D’amour, Moses V. Chao, Robert C. Froemke. Oxytocin enables maternal behaviour by balancing cortical inhibition. Nature, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/nature14402
MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Bianca Jones Marlin, PhD (2015). Oxytocin Facilitates Mother-Baby Bonding