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Factors such as stress and anxiety often contribute to alcohol-dependent behavior and can trigger a relapse of alcohol addiction and use. Therefore, it is important to investigate potential pharmacological interventions that may alleviate the influence of stress on addiction-related behaviors. Previous studies have demonstrated that the neuropeptide oxytocin has promising anxiolytic potential in mammals and may offer a pharmacological target to diminish the emotional impact on reinstatement of alcohol-seeking. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the effect of oxytocin on stress-induced alcohol relapse and identify a neural structure mediating this effect through the use of an ethanol self-administration and yohimbine-induced reinstatement paradigm. While yohimbine administration resulted in the reinstatement of ethanol-seeking behavior, the concurrent administration of yohimbine and oxytocin attenuated this effect, suggesting that oxytocin may disrupt stress-induced ethanol-seeking behavior. The central amygdala (CeA) is a structure that drives emotional responses and robustly expresses oxytocin receptors. Intra-CeA oxytocin similarly attenuated the yohimbine-induced reinstatement of ethanol-seeking behavior. These results demonstrate that oxytocin has the potential to attenuate stress-induced relapse into ethanol-seeking behavior, and that this mechanism occurs specifically within the central amygdala.





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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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