Oxytocin, also known as the love hormone, plays vital roles in childbirth and social bonding. It is also crucial in aiding the correct wiring of certain neuronal circuits in the brain during development, and altered oxytocin signaling has been implicated in neuropsychiatric conditions such as autism spectrum disorder. Ripamonti et al. looked deeper and discovered that a surge of maternal oxytocin right before childbirth is required for the priming of excitatory hippocampal neurons, which are typically involved in memory formation and anxiety regulation. In this process, oxytocin regulates dendritic branching, synapse formation, and synaptic transmission, allowing for the synchronicity of the neuronal network. Without this, the balance of excitatory and inhibitory signals is disrupted, which can lead to neurobehavioral disorders.
eLife 10.7554/eLife.22466 (2017).