Hypothalamic neuropeptides and memory

Tj.B. van Wimersma Greidanus, J. Jolles, D. De Wied

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    Vasopressin and oxytocin exert pronounced effects on behavior by a direct action on the brain. A single injection of vasopressin results in a long-term inhibition of extinction of a conditioned avoidance response suggesting that vasopressin triggers a long-term effect on the maintenance of a learned response, probably by facilitation of memory processes. In addition vasopressin improves passive avoidance behavior, facilitates retention of sexually motivated T-maze choice behavior in male rats, delays extinction of an appetitive discrimination task, affects approach behavior to an imprinting stimulus in ducklings, delays the postcastration decline in copulatory behavior in male rats, prevents or reverses amnesia induced by electroconvulsive shock, CO2 inhalation, pentylenetetrazol or puromycin. The majority of these effects may be explained by stimulatory influences of vasopressin on memory processes. Generally oxytocin exerts effects which are opposite to those of vasopressin and it has been suggested that oxytocin may be an amnesic neuropeptide.
    Evidence has been obtained that endogenous vasopressin and oxytocin play a physiological role in brain processes related to memory.

    Various limbic system structures seem to act as the anatomical substrate for the behavioral effects of vasopressin and different neurotransmitter systems seem to be involved. It is postulated that in case vasopressin affects retrieval processes the site of action is located in the amygdala and the dentate gyrus of the hippocampal complex with dopamine and serotonin as the respective neurotransmitter systems involved. In case the behavioral effect is due to changes in storage processes (memory consolidation) the main sites of action include the noradrenaline terminals in the dorsal septum, dorsal raphe and dentate gyrus of the dorsal hippocampus.

    Generally the clinical data obtained so far with vasopressin treatment are in agreement with the results from animal experiments and they support the notion on the involvement of vasopressin in memory function. The sometimes reported conflicting results on vasopressin effects in certain patients (Korsakoff or Alzheimer) may have to do with the wide-spread pathology in these diseases.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)99-105
    Number of pages7
    JournalActa Neurochirurgica
    Issue number1-4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1985

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