2017 May;22(3):702-711. doi: 10.1111/adb.12362.

Peters ST1,2, Bowen MT3, Bohrer K1, McGregor IS3, Neumann ID1

1 Department of Behavioral and Molecular Neurobiology, University of Regensburg, Germany.2Current address: Department of Neurology, University Clinic Regensburg, Germany.3School of Psychology, University of Sydney, Australia.


Alcohol (EtOH) is one of the most widely abused recreational drugs and is arguably the most harmful. However, current treatment options for alcohol-use disorders generally have limited efficacy and poor uptake in the community. In this context, the neuropeptide oxytocin (OXT) has emerged as a promising potential treatment option for a number of substance-use disorders, including alcoholism. The utility of OXT in reducing consumption of and craving for a wide range of substances may lie in its ability to modulate drug-induced neurochemical effects within the mesolimbic dopamine pathway. However, the impact of OXT on EtOH actions in this pathway has yet to be explored. Here, we reveal that an acute intracerebroventricular (icv) infusion of OXT (1 µg/5 µl) attenuated voluntary EtOH (20 percent) self-administration after chronic intermittent access to EtOH for 59 days (28 drinking sessions) in male Wistar rats. Next, we demonstrated that an acute intraperitoneal (ip) injection of EtOH (1.5 g/kg, 15 percent w/v) increased dopamine release within the nucleus accumbens in both EtOH-naive rats and rats that had received 10 daily ip injections of EtOH. Icv OXT completely blocked the EtOH-induced dopamine release in both EtOH-naive and chronically treated rats. The attenuation of EtOH-induced dopamine release by OXT may help to explain the reduced EtOH self-administration observed following icv OXT infusion.