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Fries AB, Ziegler TE, Kurian JR, Jacoris S, Pollak SD. Early experience in humans is associated with changes in neuropeptides critical for regulating social behavior. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A . 2005 Nov 22 ; 102(47):17237-40. PubMed Abstract

Comments on Paper and Primary News
Comment by:  Jogin H. Thakore
Submitted 30 November 2005 Posted 30 November 2005

Fries et al. have conducted a very interesting study into the social role of two neurohypophyseal peptides (oxytocin [OT] and vasopressin [AVP]). Most such studies are conducted in animals and have shed light on the importance of both in terms of social and emotional bonding. There is little doubt that the previously institutionalized group had suffered neglect, and their ability to secrete OT and their basal levels of AVP are reduced, indicating that their posterior pituitary and associated circuitry is not functioning optimally. A problem with this study is the fact that we are not told whether the children suffered from any sort of physical or sexual abuse. The latter is particularly important as children who were abused early in life, and were currently well, had stress (CRH-ACTH) responses which were similar to adults with depression (De Bellis, 1994). These findings may not seem very surprising as the effects of trauma or indeed illness may not manifest for many years. These small pieces of...  Read more

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Comment by:  James I. Koenig
Submitted 1 December 2005 Posted 1 December 2005

A variety of studies using a diverse array of species has established the importance of both oxytocin and vasopressin in non-human affiliative behaviors. The data provided by Fries and colleagues (Fries et al., 2005) in combination with recent data provided by Kosfeld et al. (Kosfeld et al., 2005; Zak et al., 2005) now begin to shed light on the role of these peptides in human social behaviors. While there are a number of caveats that can be attached to the findings of Fries and colleagues, the suppressed concentrations of vasopressin and oxytocin found in the urine of children exposed to impoverished early life conditions suggest that enduring changes occurred in the neurons of the hypothalamus that produce and secrete these hormones. The novelty of these data is that changing the social environment of these children elicits different...  Read more

View all comments by James I. Koenig

Comment by:  German TorresJudith Horowitz
Submitted 6 December 2005 Posted 6 December 2005

Hormonal Aspects of Neglect
One clearly recognized negative symptom of schizophrenia is the loss of interest in other people or surroundings. It is not exactly clear whether this social withdrawal is the result of neural irregularities laid down during fetal development or whether it develops after disruption of systems supporting higher-order cognitive function in the adolescent brain. In this context, the neuropeptides oxytocin and vasopressin have been shown to influence a number of forms of social behavior, including avoidance (Ferguson et al., 2002). Studies of rodents, particularly mice and certain vole species, have implicated the above neuropeptide hormones in the expression patterns of social recognition and social approach. The article of Fries et al. in the recent issue of PNAS further supports a neuropeptide basis of social behavior by showing that children reared in orphanages immediately after...  Read more

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Comment by:  Craig Morgan
Submitted 14 December 2005 Posted 14 December 2005

This is an intriguing study investigating the link between early childhood adversity and changes in certain neuropeptides implicated in the regulation of social behavior. This kind of research is of particular interest at the moment because of the recent resurgence of interest in the relationship between the social environment and schizophrenia (van Os and McGuffin, 2004), particularly the early social environment (Wicks et al., 2005; Tienari et al., 2004; Bebbington et al., 2004). Read and colleagues (2005), for example, in their recent review have concluded, somewhat controversially, that child abuse is a significant cause of schizophrenia. Is it possible that adverse early experiences...  Read more

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Comment by:  Tomiki Sumiyoshi
Submitted 19 December 2005 Posted 19 December 2005

Fries and colleagues (2005) reported decreased urine levels of neuropeptides, arginine vasopressin (AVP), and oxytocin in children reared in orphanage settings compared to those in infants who received normal caregiving from their parents. Since it has been suggested that previously institutionalized children frequently experience problems in establishing social bonds and regulating social behavior, as discussed by Fries and colleagues, these results provide an excellent addition to the growing evidence for the contribution of the neuropeptidergic systems to social behavior in mammalian species (e.g., Tanaka et al., 2003; Bielsky et al., 2005; Matsuoka et al., 2005; see Storm and Tecott, 2005 for review). Particularly impressive was the finding that infants...  Read more

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