SPLTRAK Abstract Submission
Oxytocin enables reinforcement of distributed network representations for retrieval of social familiarity
David Wolf1,2, Renée Hartig2, Yi Zhuo2, Max F. Scheller2, Mirko Articus1, Valery Grinevich1, Eleonora Russo2, Wolfgang Weber-Fahr1, Christiane Linster3, Jonathan R. Reinwald1,2, Wolfgang Kelsch1,2
1Central Institute of Mental Health, Mannheim, Medical Faculty Mannheim, Heidelberg University, Germany
2Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University Medical Center, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany
3Computational Physiology Laboratory, Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, United States

Recognition of familiar individuals is essential to forming social structures. It remains however relatively unclear how such familiarity memory is encoded in the adult brain. Social interactions are multisensory in nature. We show here that volatile odors emitted by mice are sufficient to recognize familiar conspecifics following initial exploration. Awake fMRI reveals a network of limbic brain regions recruited by evoked oxytocin release that partly overlaps with regions activated by volatile social odors during recognition. Within this functionally coupled network, population activity in olfactory cortices and the olfactory bulb shows enhanced and more distinct responses to the familiar. Boosted oxytocin release during initial exploration increases social salience and further strengthens familiarity memory traces. The formation of such familiarity memory traces requires intact oxytocin receptors in the anterior olfactory cortex. In summary, oxytocin enables formation of distributed memory traces of learned familiarity that can be retrieved from distant chemosensory signals.