The neuropeptide Oxytocin provides a new therapeutic approach to psychiatric disorders that involve impaired social interactions. Scientists at the Central Institute of Mental Health now reveal a mechanism how Oxytocin improves the perception and later recognition of social information from the systems to the synapse level. The study „Oxytocin Enhances Social Recognition by Modulating Cortical Control of Early Olfactory Processing” has been published in the renowned journal Neuron 21 April 2016.
Social recognition requires the perception of relevant social cues and the identity of others to elicit proper responses. Problems in the early perception of social information will impact consequently subsequent stages of information processing and eventual social responses.
Hans Asperger, a pediatrician after whom one form of autism is named, had already highlighted altered sensory perception as a hallmark of the disorder. These alterations in sensory processing have gained progressively more attention in the last few years and are now also added to the latest revision of the American diagnostic research criteria.
Neuronal processing underlying social interaction can be affected at different levels. The neuropeptide Oxytocin has turned out to be a key modulator in the perception of others as research groups at the Central Institute had shown in the last years.
Oxytocin is tested in many studies for instance to support psychotherapy trying to alleviate deficits in the recognition of interpersonal interactions. The mechanisms have however not been entirely clarified how Oxytocin modifies the perception of social cues.
Scientists around the Neurobiologist Lennart Oettl and the Psychiatrist and Neurophysiologist Dr. Wolfgang Kelsch (Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Head of the Research Group of Developmental Biology of Psychiatric Disorders) now revealed a mechanism in mice how Oxytocin can modulate the perception and later recognition of other individuals.
Just like most animals, mice use primarily olfactory cues for social recognition. The scientists found that Oxytocin released from the brain improves the signal-to-noise in sensory information processing. Oxytocin activates so-called top-down projections from the cortex down to sensory networks where the top-down inputs drive inhibitory neurons.
This top-down drive of inhibition improves signal quality in the sense of attentional filtering. The modified sensory information is then propagated to higher cortical areas. Through this mechanism, Oxytocin modifies the processing of social cues and improves later recognition of other individuals.
„It is a little bit like playing the game Memory where you have to sharpen your senses on distinguish similar objects and later remember them when they appear again. Oxytocin seems to promote these two aspects in social recognition“, explains Wolfgang Kelsch. This means that Oxytocin sets the sensory processing network in a particular state for the efficient processing of social cues.
Oxytocin acts at multiple levels of the processing of social cues. The present finding highlights that Oxytocin’s actions early in the information stream will impact downstream processes. The here described mechanisms could also apply to psychiatric disorders and explain some of the altered perception observed with autism, and, as recent studies in humans show, potentially serve as a starting point for more objective diagnostic criteria.
Oettl LL, Ravi R, Schneider M, Scheller M, Schneider P, Mitre M, da Silva Gouveia M, Froemke RC, Chao MV, Young WS, Meyer-Lindenberg A, Grinevich V, Shusterman, Kelsch W (2016) Oxytocin enhances social recognition by modulating cortical control of early olfactory processing. Neuron (2016) http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2016.03.033
Dr. Wolfgang Kelsch
Heidelberg University, Medical Faculty Mannheim
Central Institute of Mental Health
J5, D-68159 Mannheim
Tel.: +49(0)621 1703 6213
Sigrid Wolff | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Penn studies find promise for innovations in liquid biopsies
30.03.2017 | University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
'On-off switch' brings researchers a step closer to potential HIV vaccine
30.03.2017 | University of Nebraska-Lincoln
The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.
To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
30.03.2017 | Health and Medicine
30.03.2017 | Health and Medicine
30.03.2017 | Medical Engineering