Thalamic integration of social stimuli regulating parental behavior and the oxytocin system

Arpad Dobolyi, Melinda Cservenák, Larry J. Young

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

3 Citations (Scopus)


Critically important components of the maternal neural circuit in the preoptic area robustly activated by suckling were recently identified. In turn, suckling also contributes to hormonal adaptations to motherhood, which includes oxytocin release and consequent milk ejection. Other reproductive or social stimuli can also trigger the release of oxytocin centrally, influencing parental or social behaviors. However, the neuronal pathways that transfer suckling and other somatosensory stimuli to the preoptic area and oxytocin neurons have been poorly characterized. Recently, a relay center of suckling was determined and characterized in the posterior intralaminar complex of the thalamus (PIL). Its neurons containing tuberoinfundibular peptide 39 project to both the preoptic area and oxytocin neurons in the hypothalamus. The present review argues that the PIL is a major relay nucleus conveying somatosensory information supporting maternal behavior and oxytocin release in mothers, and may be involved more generally in social cue evoked oxytocin release, too.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)102-115
Number of pages14
JournalFrontiers in Neuroendocrinology
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018



  • Ascending neuronal pathway
  • Caring behavior
  • Female sexual behavior
  • Galanin
  • Male ejaculation
  • Maternal attachment
  • Paraventricular hypothalamic nucleus
  • Preoptic area
  • Reproductive hormones
  • Suckling-induced prolactin release

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems

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