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Sexual dimorphism of oxytocin and vasopressin in social cognition and behavior

Authors Lu Q, Lai J, Du Y, Huang T, Prukpitikul P, Xu Y, Hu S

Received 31 October 2018

Accepted for publication 15 March 2019

Published 17 May 2019 Volume 2019:12 Pages 337—349

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/PRBM.S192951

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Ms Justinn Cochran

Peer reviewer comments 4

Editor who approved publication: Professor Mei-chun Cheung


Qiaoqiao Lu,1,2 Jianbo Lai,1,3–4 Yanli Du,2 Tingting Huang,2 Pornkanok Prukpitikul,2 Yi Xu,1,3–4 Shaohua Hu1,3–4

1Department of Psychiatry, First Affiliated Hospital, College of Medicine, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, 310003, People’s Republic of China; 2Department of Clinical Medicine, College of Medicine, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310003, People’s Republic of China; 3Brain Research Institute of Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310003, People’s Republic of China; 4Key Laboratory of Mental Disorder Management in Zhejiang Province, Hangzhou, 310003, People’s Republic of China

Abstract: The neuropeptides oxytocin (OT) and vasopressin (VP) are hormones that are known to mediate social behavior and cognition, but their influence may be sex-dependent. This paper aims to provide a comprehensive review of the sex-related influence of OT and VP on social cognition, focusing on partner preference and sexual orientation, trust and relevant behaviors, memory modulation, and emotion regulation. Most studies have suggested that OT facilitates familiar-partner preference in both sexes, with females being more significant, increased trust in others, especially for male, enhanced memory in either sex, and reduced anxious emotion in males. However, VP-regulated social cognition has been less studied. Other relevant studies have indicated that VP facilitated familiar-partner preference, improved memory, induced empathy formation, increased positive-emotion recognition, and induced anxiety without any sex difference. However, there was a male preponderance among studies, and results were often too complex to draw firm conclusions. Clarifying the interplay between OT/VP and sex hormones in the regulation of social cognition is necessary for further applications.

Keywords: oxytocin, vasopressin, sexual difference, social cognition, social behavior

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