UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry

Publication Date


Document Type



Animals; Animals, Suckling; Brain Mapping; Emotions; Female; Magnetic Resonance Imaging; Maternal Behavior; *Object Attachment; Oxytocin; Rats; Rats, Sprague-Dawley; Receptors, Oxytocin; Reward


Life Sciences | Medicine and Health Sciences


Oxytocin is released in the maternal brain during breastfeeding and may help strengthen the mother-infant relationship. Here, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to determine whether oxytocin modulates brain activity in postpartum day 4-8 dams receiving suckling stimulation. During imaging sessions, dams were exposed to pup suckling before and after administration of an oxytocin receptor antagonist. Another group of dams received oxytocin alone. Changes in brain activation in response to suckling closely matched that elicited by oxytocin administration. The overlapping brain areas included the olfactory system, nucleus accumbens, insular cortex, prefrontal cortex, ventral tegmental area, cortical amygdala, and several cortical and hypothalamic nuclei. Blockade of oxytocin receptors largely attenuated activation in these regions. The data suggest that oxytocin may strengthen mother-infant bond formation partly by acting through brain areas involved in regulating olfactory discrimination, emotions, and reward.

DOI of Published Version



J Neurosci. 2005 Dec 14;25(50):11637-44. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID