Special Issue "Hypothalamus, Neuropeptides and Socioemotional Behavior"

A special issue of Brain Sciences (ISSN 2076-3425). This special issue belongs to the section "Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (12 May 2022) | Viewed by 12054

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Andrea Caria
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Psychology and Cognitive Sciences, University of Trento, 38068 Rovereto, Italy
Interests: neurobiology; neurophysiology; neuroimaging; medical neurosciences; neurobehavioral manifestations

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

There is longstanding evidence of dysfunctions of socioemotional behavior in animals and humans after hypothalamic damage. Furthermore, hypothalamic peptides such as oxytocin and arginine-vasopressin have recently attracted great interest for their implications in treatment of patients with socioemotional disorders, as in the case of autism spectrum disorders. For instance, a large number of controlled trials demonstrated that exogenous oxytocin or arginine-vasopressin administration can mitigate social behavior impairment in ASD. However, despite the major role of hypothalamus for the synthesis and release of oxytocin and vasopressin, and the extensively documented hypothalamic role in supporting and regulating affiliative and socioemotional responses in animals and humans, our understanding of the anatomical and functional properties of the hypothalamic nuclei in relation to typical and atypical socioemotional behavior remains rather limited. Recently, extraordinary progresses in MRI techniques indicate the feasibility of high-resolution structural and functional imaging of the human hypothalamus, and thus opening the way to neuroimaging investigations aiming to elucidate the role of this region in multiple facets of socioemotional behavior. The main scope of this Special Issue is thus expanding our understanding of the relationship between the hypothalamic system, its synthetized peptides and socioemotional behavior. The collected articles are expected to help to clarify, for instance, which and how specific anatomical and functional subdivisions of the hypothalamus mediate typical and atypical socioemotional responses, the interactions between the hypothalamus and other cortical and subcortical regions such as amygdala and thalamus, how the modulation of hypothalamic activity reflects dynamic changes of neuropeptides concentration at peripheral and central level, as well as the involvement of specific hypothalamic neuropeptides neural pathways, local release patterns, and receptors distribution in socioemotional responses. This Special Issue calls for original neuroimaging, behavioral and neurobiological studies, as well as meta-analyses and reviews addressing these and other related research questions, so as to deepen and advance the comprehension of the mechanisms through which the hypothalamus shape socioemotional behavior.

Dr. Andrea Caria
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • hypothalamus
  • neuropeptides
  • neuroimaging
  • oxytocin
  • vasopressin
  • emotion regulation
  • social cognition
  • social interaction
  • affiliative behavior
  • socioemotional disorders

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

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Article
Inflammatory Stress Induced by Intraperitoneal Injection of LPS Increases Phoenixin Expression and Activity in Distinct Rat Brain Nuclei
Brain Sci. 2022, 12(2), 135; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci12020135 - 20 Jan 2022
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1675
Abstract
Due to phoenixin’s role in restraint stress and glucocorticoid stress, as well as its recently shown effects on the inflammasome, we aimed to investigate the effects of lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced inflammatory stress on the activity of brain nuclei-expressing phoenixin. Male Sprague Dawley rats ( [...] Read more.
Due to phoenixin’s role in restraint stress and glucocorticoid stress, as well as its recently shown effects on the inflammasome, we aimed to investigate the effects of lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced inflammatory stress on the activity of brain nuclei-expressing phoenixin. Male Sprague Dawley rats (n = 6/group) were intraperitoneally injected with either LPS or control (saline). Brains were processed for c-Fos and phoenixin immunohistochemistry and the resulting slides were evaluated using ImageJ software. c-Fos was counted and phoenixin was evaluated using densitometry. LPS stress significantly increased c-Fos expression in the central amygdaloid nucleus (CeM, 7.2-fold), supraoptic nucleus (SON, 34.8 ± 17.3 vs. 0.0 ± 0.0), arcuate nucleus (Arc, 4.9-fold), raphe pallidus (RPa, 5.1-fold), bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BSt, 5.9-fold), dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus nerve (DMN, 89-fold), and medial part of the nucleus of the solitary tract (mNTS, 121-fold) compared to the control-injected group (p < 0.05). Phoenixin expression also significantly increased in the CeM (1.2-fold), SON (1.5-fold), RPa (1.3-fold), DMN (1.3-fold), and mNTS (1.9-fold, p < 0.05), leading to a positive correlation between c-Fos and phoenixin in the RPa, BSt, and mNTS (p < 0.05). In conclusion, LPS stress induces a significant increase in activity in phoenixin immunoreactive brain nuclei that is distinctively different from restraint stress. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Hypothalamus, Neuropeptides and Socioemotional Behavior)
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Article
Effects of Oxytocin on Social Comparisons in Intergroup Situations
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(9), 1227; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11091227 - 17 Sep 2021
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Abstract
Oxytocin (OXT) is known to affect various social processes, including social comparisons and intergroup competition. In this study, we examined whether social comparisons in intergroup situations can be modulated by OXT and, if so, how this modulation manifests. Using a double-blind placebo-controlled design, [...] Read more.
Oxytocin (OXT) is known to affect various social processes, including social comparisons and intergroup competition. In this study, we examined whether social comparisons in intergroup situations can be modulated by OXT and, if so, how this modulation manifests. Using a double-blind placebo-controlled design, we randomly assigned male participants to either OXT or placebo treatment and then asked them to play a card game with either an in-group or an out-group member. The OXT-treated participants showed a greater social comparison effect in the games with an out-group member than in games with an in-group member. Specifically, the participants in the OXT treatment condition showed a greater acceptance rate for relative gain (downward comparison) and a lower acceptance rate for relative loss (upward comparison) while playing with an out-group member rather than an in-group member. In contrast, no such effect was observed among placebo-treated participants. These findings demonstrate that OXT facilitates intergroup social comparisons with out-group versus in-group members. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Hypothalamus, Neuropeptides and Socioemotional Behavior)
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Article
Recalled Parental Bonding Interacts with Oxytocin Receptor Gene Polymorphism in Modulating Anxiety and Avoidance in Adult Relationships
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(4), 496; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11040496 - 14 Apr 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2494
Abstract
Early interactions with significant individuals affect social experience throughout the course of a lifetime, as a repeated and prolonged perception of different levels of care, independence, or control influences the modulation of emotional regulatory processes. As many factors play a role in shaping [...] Read more.
Early interactions with significant individuals affect social experience throughout the course of a lifetime, as a repeated and prolonged perception of different levels of care, independence, or control influences the modulation of emotional regulatory processes. As many factors play a role in shaping the expectations and features of social interaction, in this study, we considered the influence of parental bonding and genetic allelic variation of oxytocin receptor gene polymorphism (rs53576) over levels of experienced anxiety and avoidance in 313 young adults belonging to two different cultural contexts, namely Italy and Singapore. Results highlighted a major effect of maternal characteristics, care, and overprotection, with differences between the two cultural groups. Additionally, the interaction between rs53576 and maternal overprotection suggested different environmental susceptibility in the Italian sample and the Singaporean one. Implications for clinical work and future steps are described in the Conclusion. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Hypothalamus, Neuropeptides and Socioemotional Behavior)
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Systematic Review
Functional Neuroimaging of Human Hypothalamus in Socioemotional Behavior: A Systematic Review
Brain Sci. 2022, 12(6), 707; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci12060707 - 30 May 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 955
Abstract
There exist extensive animal research and lesion studies in humans demonstrating a tight association between the hypothalamus and socioemotional behavior. However, human neuroimaging literature in this direction is still rather limited. In order to reexamine the functional role of this region in regulating [...] Read more.
There exist extensive animal research and lesion studies in humans demonstrating a tight association between the hypothalamus and socioemotional behavior. However, human neuroimaging literature in this direction is still rather limited. In order to reexamine the functional role of this region in regulating human social behavior, we here provided a synthesis of neuroimaging studies showing hypothalamic activation during affiliative, cooperative interactions, and in relation to ticklish laughter and humor. In addition, studies reporting involvement of the hypothalamus during aggressive and antisocial interactions were also considered. Our systematic review revealed a growing number of investigations demonstrating that the evolutionary conserved hypothalamic neural circuity is involved in multiple and diverse aspects of human socioemotional behavior. On the basis of the observed heterogeneity of hypothalamus-mediated socioemotional responses, we concluded that the hypothalamus might play an extended functional role for species survival and preservation, ranging from exploratory and approaching behaviors promoting social interactions to aggressive and avoidance responses protecting and defending the established social bonds. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Hypothalamus, Neuropeptides and Socioemotional Behavior)
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Systematic Review
Endogenous Oxytocin Levels in Autism—A Meta-Analysis
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(11), 1545; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11111545 - 21 Nov 2021
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 1440
Abstract
Oxytocin (OT) circuitry plays a major role in the mediation of prosocial behavior. Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are characterized by impairments in social interaction and communication and have been suggested to display deficiencies in central OT mechanisms. The current preregistered meta-analysis [...] Read more.
Oxytocin (OT) circuitry plays a major role in the mediation of prosocial behavior. Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are characterized by impairments in social interaction and communication and have been suggested to display deficiencies in central OT mechanisms. The current preregistered meta-analysis evaluated potential group differences in endogenous OT levels between individuals with ASD and neurotypical (NT) controls. We included 18 studies comprising a total of 1422 participants. We found that endogenous OT levels are lower in children with ASD as compared to NT controls (n = 1123; g = −0.60; p = 0.006), but this effect seems to disappear in adolescent (n = 152; g = −0.20; p = 0.53) and adult populations (n = 147; g = 0.27; p = 0.45). Secondly, while no significant subgroup differences were found in regard to sex, the group difference in OT levels of individuals with versus without ASD seems to be only present in the studies with male participants (n = 814; g = −0.44; p = 0.08) and not female participants (n = 192; g = 0.11; p = 0.47). More research that employs more homogeneous methods is necessary to investigate potential developmental changes in endogenous OT levels, both in typical and atypical development, and to explore the possible use of OT level measurement as a diagnostic marker of ASD. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Hypothalamus, Neuropeptides and Socioemotional Behavior)
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Systematic Review
A Scientometric Approach to Review the Role of the Medial Preoptic Area (MPOA) in Parental Behavior
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(3), 393; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11030393 - 20 Mar 2021
Cited by 11 | Viewed by 3029
Abstract
Research investigating the neural substrates underpinning parental behaviour has recently gained momentum. Particularly, the hypothalamic medial preoptic area (MPOA) has been identified as a crucial region for parenting. The current study conducted a scientometric analysis of publications from 1 January 1972 to 19 [...] Read more.
Research investigating the neural substrates underpinning parental behaviour has recently gained momentum. Particularly, the hypothalamic medial preoptic area (MPOA) has been identified as a crucial region for parenting. The current study conducted a scientometric analysis of publications from 1 January 1972 to 19 January 2021 using CiteSpace software to determine trends in the scientific literature exploring the relationship between MPOA and parental behaviour. In total, 677 scientific papers were analysed, producing a network of 1509 nodes and 5498 links. Four major clusters were identified: “C-Fos Expression”, “Lactating Rat”, “Medial Preoptic Area Interaction” and “Parental Behavior”. Their content suggests an initial trend in which the properties of the MPOA in response to parental behavior were studied, followed by a growing attention towards the presence of a brain network, including the reward circuits, regulating such behavior. Furthermore, while attention was initially directed uniquely to maternal behavior, it has recently been extended to the understanding of paternal behaviors as well. Finally, although the majority of the studies were conducted on rodents, recent publications broaden the implications of previous documents to human parental behavior, giving insight into the mechanisms underlying postpartum depression. Potential directions in future works were also discussed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Hypothalamus, Neuropeptides and Socioemotional Behavior)
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