Exploring Dissociation and Oxytocin as Pathways Between Trauma Exposure and Trauma-Related Hyperemesis Gravidarum: A Test-of-Concept Pilot
ABSTRACT Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with gastrointestinal and genitourinary comorbidities. These map onto the somatization disorder symptoms in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders ( American Psychiatric Association, 1994 ) and the dissociative (conversion) disorders symptoms in the International Classification of Diseases taxonomy ( World Health Organization, 2007 ). Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) is one of these symptoms and a gastrointestinal comorbidity of PTSD occurring in pregnancy. It is an idiopathic condition defined as severe vomiting with dehydration, metabolic imbalance, wasting, and hospital care seeking. HG is more severe than the normative phenomenon of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy. This test-of-concept pilot (N = 25) explored the hypothesis that there is a trauma-related subtype of HG characterized by (a) high levels of dissociative symptoms and (b) altered plasma concentrations of oxytocin. This hypothesis is informed by a theory of posttraumatic oxytocin dysregulation that posits altered oxytocin function as a mechanism of gut smooth muscle peristalsis dysfunction. A 4-group analysis compared controls with nausea and vomiting of pregnancy (NV only) and cases with HG only, NV and PTSD, or HG and PTSD. Oxytocin was correlated with the nausea and vomiting symptom severity score (r = .464, p = .019) and with the dissociation symptom score (r = .570, p = .003). Women in the group with both PTSD and HG (the trauma-related HG subtype) had the highest levels of dissociation and the highest levels of oxytocin. A linear regression model indicated that the independent association of the trauma-related HG subtype with oxytocin level was mediated by high levels of dissociative symptoms.
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ABSTRACT: Concerns regarding a drought in psychopharmacology have risen from many quarters. From one perspective, the wellspring of bedrock medications for anxiety disorders, depression, and schizophrenia was serendipitously discovered over 30 year ago, the swell of pharmaceutical investment in drug discovery has receded, and the pipeline's flow of medications with unique mechanisms of action (i.e., glutamatergic agents, CRF antagonists) has slowed to a trickle. Might oxytocin (OT)-based therapeutics be an oasis? Though a large basic science literature and a slowly increasing number of studies in human diseases support this hope, the bulk of extant OT studies in humans are single-dose studies on normals, and do not directly relate to improvements in human brain-based diseases. Instead, these studies have left us with a field pregnant with therapeutic possibilities, but barren of definitive treatments. In this clinically oriented review, we discuss the extant OT literature with an eye toward helping OT deliver on its promise as a therapeutic agent. To this end, we identify 10 key questions that we believe future OT research should address. From this overview, several conclusions are clear: (1) the OT system represents an extremely promising target for novel CNS drug development; (2) there is a pressing need for rigorous, randomized controlled clinical trials targeting actual patients; and (3) in order to inform the design and execution of these vital trials, we need further translational studies addressing the questions posed in this review. Looking forward, we extend a cautious hope that the next decade of OT research will birth OT-targeted treatments that can truly deliver on this system's therapeutic potential.Frontiers in Neuroscience 03/2013; 7:35. DOI:10.3389/fnins.2013.00035 · 3.70 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Oxytocin is a promising biomarker for psychiatric conditions arising from early relational trauma, childhood maltreatment, and attachment dysregulation, including posttraumatic stress and dissociative disorders. This exploratory pilot study examined plasma oxytocin as a biomarker for alterations in the attachment system. We used a single group, repeated-measures design with 15 women. The protocol used a film clip previously validated as a provocation to the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. The repeated-measures ANOVA showed differences in oxytocin across the three time points. Correlations with oxytocin indicated that measures of dissociation and somatization correlated most strongly with higher levels of oxytocin measured during exposure to the film's bonding scene and posttraumatic stress disorder correlated most strongly with lower levels at the film's abandonment scene. Post hoc analyses revealed differences in oxytocin response related to psychopathology. Replication studies should characterize participants on a range of psychiatric conditions associated with attachment dysregulation.Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association 07/2013; 19(4):180-91. DOI:10.1177/1078390313492173
Article: Autism, oxytocin and interoception[Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder characterized by profound social and verbal communication deficits, stereotypical motor behaviors, restricted interests, and cognitive abnormalities. Autism affects approximately 1% of children in developing countries. Given this prevalence, identifying risk factors and therapeutic interventions are pressing objectives–objectives that rest on neurobiologically grounded and psychologically informed theories about the underlying pathophysiology. In this article, we review the evidence that autism could result from a dysfunctional oxytocin system early in life. As a mediator of successful procreation, not only in the reproductive system, but also in the brain, oxytocin plays a crucial role in sculpting socio-sexual behavior. Formulated within a (Bayesian) predictive coding framework, we propose that oxytocin encodes the saliency or precision of interoceptive signals and enables the neuronal plasticity necessary for acquiring a generative model of the emotional and social ‘self.’ An aberrant oxytocin system in infancy could therefore help explain the marked deficits in language and social communication–as well as the sensory, autonomic, motor, behavioral, and cognitive abnormalities–seen in autism.Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 09/2014; 47. DOI:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2014.09.012 · 10.28 Impact Factor