Meeting Abstract

S9-7  Sunday, Jan. 8 11:00 - 11:30  The role of oxytocin in shaping prosocial behavior: new evidence from free-living ground squirrels and other social mammals SMITH, Jennifer E.*; PETELLE, Matthew B. ; JEROME, Emily L. ; CRISTOFARI, Hélène ; BLUMSTEIN, Daniel T. ; Biology Department, Mills College, Oakland, CA; Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA; Biology Department, Mills College, Oakland, CA; Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA; Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA jesmith@mills.edu http://www.JenniferElaineSmith.com

Whereas oxytocin has gained a reputation as the “love drug” or “cuddle hormone”, emerging evidence indicates the need for a more comprehensive view in understanding its role in regulating prosocial behaviors. Here, we revisit the salience of oxytocin in the lives of free-living social mammals. First, we investigated the potential for oxytocin to promote social cohesion in yellow-bellied marmots (Marmota flaviventris). We intranasally-administered oxytocin or a saline control to 18 subjects in field experiments. Behavioral responses in the mirror-image stimulation (social) tests were highly variable among subjects and were not significantly different between treatment and control groups. Second, we reviewed the literature to understand the potential for strong positive effects of oxytocin in promoting prosocial behaviors in non-humans. Our review highlights some common pitfalls associated with oxytocin studies, a strong bias for studies of model organisms in highly-controlled settings, and emerging evidence for oxytocin’s antisocial, context and sex-specific effects. Taken together, these findings lead us to join others in calling for revision of an overly simplistic view of oxytocin’s role in promoting mammalian behavior. In doing so, we provide a more nuanced roadmap for moving the field forward by emphasizing the complexities of these effects in shaping prosocial tendencies in the social lives of animals in naturalistic settings.