Background and Objective: Although the neurohypophyseal hormones vasopressin (VP)
and oxytocin (OT) are mostly known for their role respectively in antidiuresis, and in labour, lactation
and maternal behavior, both might exert widespread influences either on emotion and cognition in
healthy subjects, showing some gender-related differences. They interact with each other facilitating
shifts between positive socially- oriented and defensive states. In fact, VP amplifies the reactivity to
stressors showing also beneficial effects on attention, verbal learning as well as memory, whereas OT
reduces the amplitude of the stress response, improves emotion processing, and can play a negative
effect on memory and verbal learning in healthy individuals. Several data indicate the possible involvement
of these neuropeptides in the pathophysiology of psychiatric conditions involving social
interactions, such as autism, as well as in schizophrenia and depression. The aim of this paper is to
review the literature relating to the role played by neurohypophyseal hormones in neuropsychiatric
Methods: We analyzed the best of published literature dealing with the relationships between neurohypophyseal
hormones and neuropsychiatric conditions like autism (AD), major depressive disorder
(MDD), bipolar disorder (BD) and schozophrenia, identifying keywords and MeSH terms in Pubmed
and then searching them. The last search was performed on December 2017.
Results: Several studies indicate a role played by OT and VP in AD, schizophrenia, MDD and BD.
Even if conflicting data have been reported, several mechanisms may be involved in these behavioral
diseases, such as differences in aminoacid sequence and peptide biological activity, neurotransmission
and genetic disorders involving OT and VP receptors.
Conclusion: The involvment of VP and OT in neurpopsychiatric disorders can support a possible
beneficial therapy with OT or with VP antagonists. The target may be obtained using effective drug
delivery methods as well as the association with other drugs.