Oxytocin improves autistic-like behaviors induced by maternal deprivation in female rats



Background and Objective: Maternal deprivation as an early life negative experience can lead to enduring disorders such as autism-like behaviors by affecting brain development. Oxytocinergic system alters in the process of maternal deprivation, on the other hand the positive effect of oxytocin on the improvement of social behavior and stereotyped behavior in autism disorder has been shown. In this study, we investigated the effect of oxytocin on maternal deprivation-induced autism-like behaviors in female rats.
Materials and Methods: For this purpose, 32 female rats were divided into four groups. The two groups were separated from the mother 3 hours daily for the first 14 days of life. The other two groups were kept in normal condition. After weaning from each of the two groups (maternal deprivation or control), one group received oxytocin at a dose of 1 mg/kg for five times. At adolescence (PND=42-50), social behavior tests, stereotyped behaviors, and anxiety behaviors were taken. Plasma BDNF levels were also measured.
Results: The present study showed that maternal deprivation led to autism-like behaviors and anxiety behavior in adolescent female rats (P<0.05), which were significantly reduced by oxytocin injection (P<0.05). Maternal deprivation also resulted in a significant increase in plasma brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) level (P<0.05), but oxytocin treatment did not significantly decrease it.
Conclusion: The results of this study showed that oxytocin treatment had an effective role in modulating autistic-like and anxiety behaviors in female rats.


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