Social Interactions Increase Activation of Vasopressin-Responsive Neurons in the Dorsal Raphe

T. N. Patel, H. O. Caiola, O. G. Mallari, K. L. Blandino, A. R. Goldenthal, S. M. Dymecki, B. D. Rood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Social interactions play an important role in our daily lives and can profoundly impact our health for better and worse. To better understand the neural circuitry underlying social behavior, we focused on neural circuits involving vasopressin neurons of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) and serotonin neurons of the dorsal raphe (DR). Previous research shows that BNST vasopressin neurons are activated in male mice by interaction with a female and that vasopressin indirectly excites serotonin neurons. In our studies, we tested the hypothesis that specific social interactions would also activate neurons in the DR, specifically vasopressin 1A receptor (Avpr1a)-expressing neurons, which may be direct targets of the BNST vasopressin neurons. Using in separate experiments immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization, we found that male and female subjects exposed to a female conspecific show activation in the DR, and the activated neurons include populations of Avpr1a-expressing and other non-serotonergic, non-Avpr1a neurons in roughly equal numbers. Avpr1a neurons in the DR constitute a largely undocumented neuron population. Electrophysiological data suggest that most DR Avpr1a neurons behave like fast spiking interneurons found in other brain regions. Examination of RNAseq and in situ hybridization data suggests that there are glutamatergic, GABAergic, and serotonergic subtypes of Avpr1a neurons in the DR. Together our data support a model in which a subset of vasopressin-responsive interneurons in the DR may relay stimulus specific social signals from the forebrain BNST to the serotonergic DR system, which could help direct prosocial stimulus specific behavioral responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-46
Number of pages22
StatePublished - Jul 15 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience(all)


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