Social recognition, the ability to recognize individuals that were previously encountered, requires complex integration of sensory inputs with previous experience. Here, we use a variety of approaches to discern how oxytocin-sensitive neurons in the PFC exert descending control over a circuit mediating social recognition in mice. Using male mice with Cre-recombinase directed to the oxytocin receptor gene (Oxtr), we revealed that oxytocin receptors (OXTRs) are expressed on glutamatergic neurons in the PFC, optogenetic stimulation of which elicited activation of neurons residing in several mesolimbic brain structures. Optogenetic stimulation of axons in the BLA arising from OXTR-expressing neurons in the PFC eliminated the ability to distinguish novel from familiar conspecifics, but remarkably, distinguishing between novel and familiar objects was unaffected. These results suggest that an oxytocin-sensitive PFC to BLA circuit is required for social recognition. The implication is that impaired social memory may manifest from dysregulation of this circuit.
- Basolateral amygdala
- Bed nucleus of the stria terminalis
- Nucleus accumbens
- Social novelty