The appropriate display of social behaviors is essential for the well-being, reproductive success and survival of an individual. Deficits in social behavior are associated with impaired N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor-mediated neurotransmission. In this review, we describe recent studies using genetically modified mice and pharmacological approaches which link the impaired functioning of the NMDA receptors, especially of the receptor subunits GluN1, GluN2A and GluN2B, to abnormal social behavior. This abnormal social behavior is expressed as impaired social interaction and communication, deficits in social memory, deficits in sexual and maternal behavior, as well as abnormal or heightened aggression. We also describe the positive effects of pharmacological stimulation of the NMDA receptors on these social deficits. Indeed, pharmacological stimulation of the glycine-binding site either by direct stimulation or by elevating the synaptic glycine levels represents a promising strategy for the normalization of genetically-induced, pharmacologically-induced or innate deficits in social behavior. We emphasize on the importance of future studies investigating the role of subunit-selective NMDA receptor ligands on different types of social behavior to provide a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms, which might support the development of selective tools for the optimized treatment of disorders associated with social deficits.
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