The intranasal route of drug administration has gained increased popularity as it is thought to allow large molecules, such as peptide hormones, more direct access to the brain, while limiting systemic exposure. Several studies have investigated the effects of intranasal oxytocin administration in humans as this peptide is associated with prosocial behavior. There are, however, few preclinical studies investigating the effects of intranasal oxytocin administration in rodents. Oxytocin modulates hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis functioning and it has been suggested that oxytocin's ability to increase sociability may occur through a reduction in stress reactivity. Another peptide that appears to influence both social behavior and HPA axis activity is gastrin-releasing peptide (GRP), but it is not known if these GRP-induced effects are related. With this in mind, in the present study, we assessed the effects of intranasal and intraperitoneal oxytocin and GRP administration on social interaction and release of corticosterone in rats. Intranasal and intraperitoneal administration of 20, but not 5 μg, of oxytocin significantly increased social interaction, whereas intranasal and peripheral administration of GRP (20 but not 5 μg) significantly decreased levels of social interaction. In addition, while intranasal oxytocin (20 μg) had no effect on blood corticosterone levels, a marked increase in blood corticosterone levels was observed following intraperitoneal oxytocin administration. With GRP, intranasal (20 μg) but not peripheral administration increased corticosterone levels. These findings provide further evidence that intranasal peptide delivery can induce behavioral alterations in rodents which is consistent with findings from human studies. In addition, the peptide-induced changes in social interaction were not linked to fluctuations in corticosterone levels.

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Keywords Corticosterone, Gastrin-releasing peptide, Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, Intranasal administration, Oxytocin, Social interaction
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Journal Psychoneuroendocrinology
Kent, P. (Pamela), Awadia, A. (Alisha), Zhao, L. (Leah), Ensan, D. (Donna), Silva, D. (Dinuka), Cayer, C. (Christian), … Merali, Z. (Zul). (2016). Effects of intranasal and peripheral oxytocin or gastrin-releasing peptide administration on social interaction and corticosterone levels in rats. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 64, 123–130. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2015.11.019