Distribution of Vasopressin and Oxytocin Neurons in the Basal Forebrain and Midbrain of Spiny Mice (Acomys cahirinus)

Aubrey M. Kelly, Ashley W. Seifert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The nonapeptides vasopressin (VP) and oxytocin (OT) are present in some form in most vertebrates. VP and OT play critical roles in modulating physiology and are well-studied for their influences on a variety of social behaviors, ranging from affiliation to aggression. Their anatomical distributions have been mapped for numerous species across taxa, demonstrating relatively strong evolutionary conservation in distributions throughout the basal forebrain and midbrain. Here we examined the distribution of VP-immunoreactive (-ir) and OT-ir neurons in a gregarious, cooperatively breeding rodent species, the spiny mouse (Acomys cahirinus), for which nonapeptide mapping does not yet exist. Immunohistochemical techniques revealed VP-ir and OT-ir neuronal populations throughout the hypothalamus and amygdala of males and females that are consistent with those of other rodents. However, a novel population of OT-ir neurons was observed in the median preoptic nucleus of both sexes, located dorsally to the anterior commissure. Furthermore, we found widespread sex differences in OT neuronal populations, with males having significantly more OT-ir neurons than females. However, we observed a sex difference in only one VP cell group – that of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BST), a VP neuronal population that exhibits a phylogenetically widespread sexual dimorphism. These findings provide mapping distributions of VP and OT neurons in Acomys cahirinus. Spiny mice lend themselves to the study of mammalian cooperation and sociality, and the nonapeptide neuronal mapping presented here can serve as a basic foundation for the study of nonapeptide-mediated behavior in a group of highly social rodents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-28
Number of pages13
StatePublished - Aug 1 2021

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© 2021 IBRO


  • hypothalamus
  • neuropeptide
  • oxytocin
  • social behavior
  • vasopressin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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