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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2007

Effects of an acute stressor on blood pressure and heart rate in rats pretreated with intracerebroventricular oxytocin injections

Petersson, Maria; Uvnas-Moberg, Kerstin


Oxytocin induces a tong-lasting reduction of blood pressure in rats. The aim of the present study was to investigate the effects of an acute stressor on blood pressure and heart rate in rats previously exposed to repeated administration of intracerebroventricular (ICV) oxytocin. For this purpose oxytocin (0.3 mu g, ICV) was administered to mate rats once a day during 5 days. Blood pressure and heart rate were measured before and after treatment. In addition, blood pressure and heart rate were measured during 30 min after exposure to 10s of noise from an alarm clock.The oxytocin treatment reduced blood pressure significantly (systolic: 108+/-4.6 vs. 121 +/-1.8, p<0.01, diastolic: 96+/-5.1 vs. 108+/-3.0, p<0.01), whereas heart rate remained unchanged. In contrast, systolic and diastolic blood pressure increased significantly after the exposure to the ringing alarm clock in the oxytocin-treated rats (p<0.05), and became equal to the blood pressure in controls. In addition, heart rate increased and stayed significantly higher in the oxytocin-treated rats compared to the controls during the 30 min observation period (ANOVA p<0.01). Twenty-four hours Later, blood pressure was again significantly lower in the oxytocin-treated rats compared to controls (p<0.01). In conclusion, oxytocin decreased blood pressure without changing pulse rate. However, when the oxytocin-treated rats were subjected to the unexpected noise from a ringing alarm clock blood pressure and heart rate increased significantly. No such effect was observed in the control group.Thus repeated oxytocin treatment can, in spite of decreasing blood pressure during basal conditions, increase cardiovascular reactivity to some types of stressors. (C) 2007 Published by Elsevier Ltd.


oxytocin; rat; blood pressure; heart rate; stress

Published in

2007, Volume: 32, number: 8-10, pages: 959-965