Oxytocin and social affiliation in humans

Department of Psychology and the Gonda Brain Sciences Center, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan 52900, Israel.
Hormones and Behavior (Impact Factor: 4.63). 01/2012; 61(3):380-91. DOI: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2012.01.008
Source: PubMed


A conceptual model detailing the process of bio-behavioral synchrony between the online physiological and behavioral responses of attachment partners during social contact is presented as a theoretical and empirical framework for the study of affiliative bonds. Guided by an ethological behavior-based approach, we suggest that micro-level social behaviors in the gaze, vocal, affective, and touch modalities are dynamically integrated with online physiological processes and hormonal response to create dyad-specific affiliations. Studies across multiple attachments throughout life are presented and demonstrate that the extended oxytocin (OT) system provides the neurohormonal substrate for parental, romantic, and filial attachment in humans; that the three prototypes of affiliation are expressed in similar constellations of social behavior; and that OT is stable over time within individuals, is mutually-influencing among partners, and that mechanisms of cross-generation and inter-couple transmission relate to coordinated social behavior. Research showing links between peripheral and genetic markers of OT with concurrent parenting and memories of parental care; between administration of OT to parent and infant's physiological readiness for social engagement; and between neuropeptides and the online synchrony of maternal and paternal brain response in social-cognitive and empathy networks support the hypothesis that human attachment develops within the matrix of biological attunement and close behavioral synchrony. The findings have conceptual implications for the study of inter-subjectivity as well as translational implications for the treatment of social disorders originating in early childhood, such as autism spectrum disorders, or those associated with disruptions to early bonding, such as postpartum depression or child abuse and neglect. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Oxytocin, Vasopressin, and Social Behavior.

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Available from: Ruth Feldman, Oct 07, 2015
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    • "Oxytocin has a key role in regulating emotion , social interaction , and stress reactivity ( Carter , 1998 ; Neumann and Landgraf , 2012 ) . It is also central to normal birth , lactation , and mother – infant attachment ( Carter , 1998 ; Feldman , 2012 ) . In addition , reductions in oxytocin measured in plasma ( Skrundz et al . "
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    ABSTRACT: Postpartum depression (PPD) affects up to 19% of women, negatively impacting maternal and infant health. Reductions in plasma oxytocin levels have been associated with PPD and heritability studies have established a genetic contribution. Epigenetic regulation of the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) has been demonstrated and we hypothesized that individual epigenetic variability at OXTR may impact the development of PPD and that such variability may be central to predicting risk. This case-control study is nested within the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children and included 269 cases with PPD and 276 controls matched on age group, parity, and presence or absence of depressive symptoms in pregnancy as assessed by the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. OXTR DNA methylation (CpG site -934) and genotype (rs53576 and rs2254298) were assayed from DNA extracted from blood collected during pregnancy. Conditional logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for the association of elevated symptoms of PPD with genotype, methylation, and their interaction adjusted for psychosocial factors (n = 500). There was evidence of an interaction between rs53576 and methylation in the OXTR gene amongst women who did not have depression prenatally but developed PPD (p interaction = 0.026, adjusted for covariates, n = 257). Those women with GG genotype showed 2.63 greater odds of PPD for every 10% increase in methylation level (95% CI: 1.37, 5.03), whereas methylation was unrelated to PPD amongst "A" carriers (OR = 1.00, 95% CI: 0.58, 1.73). There was no such interaction among women with PPD and prenatal depression. These data indicate that epigenetic variation that decreases expression of OXTR in a susceptible genotype may play a contributory role in the etiology of PPD.
    Frontiers in Genetics 08/2015; 6:243. DOI:10.3389/fgene.2015.00243
    • "In non-human animals, the neuropeptide oxytocin (OT) promotes the development and maintenance of social bonds (Lim & Young, 2006). Building on these findings, the past decade of research has revealed that OT also facilitates both non-reproductive and reproductive bonds in humans (Bartz et al., 2011, Feldman, 2012). For instance, intranasal administration of OT increases trust (Kosfeld et al., 2005), altruism (Zak et al., 2007), and emotional empathy responses (Hurlemann et al., 2010) to unknown others, as well as paternal responsiveness during play with children (Naber et al., 2010). "
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    ABSTRACT: Intranasal oxytocin (OT) can modulate social-emotional functioning and related brain activity in humans. Consequently, OT has been discussed as a potential treatment for psychiatric disorders involving social behavioral deficits. However, OT effects are often heterogeneous across individuals. Here we explore individual differences in OT effects on the neural response to social cooperation as a function of the rs53576 polymorphism of the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR). Previously, we conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled study in which healthy men and women were randomized to treatment with intranasal OT or placebo. Afterwards, they were imaged with fMRI while playing an iterated Prisoner's Dilemma Game with same-sex partners. Within the left ventral caudate nucleus, intranasal OT treatment increased activation to reciprocated cooperation in men, but tended to decrease activation in women. Here, we show that these sex differences in OT effects are specific to individuals with the rs53576 GG genotype, and are not found for other genotypes (rs53576 AA/AG). Thus, OT may increase the reward or salience of positive social interactions for male GG homozygotes, while decreasing those processes for female GG homozygotes. These results suggest that rs53576 genotype is an important variable to consider in future investigations of the clinical efficacy of intranasal OT treatment. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
    Genes Brain and Behavior 07/2015; 14(7). DOI:10.1111/gbb.12234 · 3.66 Impact Factor
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    • "In mammals, oxytocin [OXT] is an important neuropeptide that modulates many social processes. OXT facilitates the establishment and maintenance of social bonds between parents and their offspring (Feldman et al., 2007; Kendrick, 2000) and pair-bonds between mates (Feldman, 2012; Young and Wang, 2004). OXT is involved in the regulation of complex social behavior (Heinrichs et al., 2009; Insel, 2010), including increased cooperation and trust in humans (Baumgartner et al., 2008; De Dreu et al., 2010; Kosfeld et al., 2005). "
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    ABSTRACT: Cooperatively-breeding and socially-monogamous primates, like marmosets and humans, exhibit high levels of social tolerance and prosociality toward others. Oxytocin (OXT) generally facilitates prosocial behavior, but there is growing recognition that OXT modulation of prosocial behavior is shaped by the context of social interactions and by other motivational states such as arousal or anxiety. To determine whether prosociality varies based on social context, we evaluated whether marmoset donors (Callithrix penicillata) preferentially rewarded pairmates versus opposite-sex strangers in a prosocial food-sharing task. To examine potential links among OXT, stress systems, and prosociality, we evaluated whether pretrial cortisol levels in marmosets altered the impact of OXT on prosocial responses. Marmosets exhibited spontaneous prosociality toward others, but they did so preferentially toward strangers compared to their pairmates. When donor marmosets were treated with marmoset-specific Pro(8)-OXT, they exhibited reduced prosociality toward strangers compared to marmosets treated with saline or consensus-mammalian Leu(8)-OXT. When pretrial cortisol levels were lower, marmosets exhibited higher prosociality toward strangers. These findings demonstrate that while marmosets show spontaneous prosocial responses toward others, they do so preferentially toward opposite-sex strangers. Cooperative breeding may be associated with the expression of prosociality, but the existence of a pair-bond between marmoset partners appears to be neither necessary nor sufficient for the expression of spontaneous prosocial responses. Further, high prosociality toward strangers is significantly reduced in marmosets treated with Pro(8)-OXT, suggesting that OXT does not universally enhance prosociality, but, rather OXT modulation of prosocial behavior varies depending on social context. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Inc.
    Hormones and Behavior 05/2015; 71:83-90. DOI:10.1016/j.yhbeh.2015.04.015 · 4.63 Impact Factor
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