“Love is the answer, but while you’re waiting for the answer, sex raises some pretty interesting questions” so says Woody Allen. Indeed, whether you’re in love or lust, the tiny neuropeptide arginine vasopressin (AVP) is your pal. Recently, Thompson et al., found that AVP increases the perception of friendliness in females exposed to unfamiliar faces (‘tend and befriend’ a stranger), while lowering the perception of friendliness in males (the more typical aggressive response to a stranger). The fascinating modulatory effects of AVP on social affiliation are now better understood in light of the work of Allaman-Exertier and colleagues who explored the relationship between the AVPR1A receptors and the neural circuitry that underlie complex behaviors and feelings of amour. The paper is focused on the lateral septal area which is rich in vasopressinergic axons and contains high amounts of AVPR1A receptors. Mice that lack a particular type of vasopressin receptor, AVPR1A, for example, are impaired in the recall and recognition of social encounters – but, replacing the receptor just in the lateral septum, is enough to restore social recognition. The AVPR1A receptors mediate both excitatory and inhibitory post-synaptic effects within the septal area and thus can modulate activity in downstream centers such as the hypothalamus.
Note: this tid bit of knowledge will not assist in the fulfillment of romantic endeavors !