Some evidence suggests that genetic polymorphisms in oxytocin pathway genes influence various social behaviors, but findings thus far have been mixed. Many studies have been based in small samples and there is possibility of publication bias. Using data from 2 large U.S. prospective cohorts with over 11,000 individuals, we investigated 88 SNPs in OXTR, AVPR1A, and CD38, in relation to social integration (measured as social connectedness in both binary and continuous forms and being continuously married). After correction for multiple testing only one SNP in CD38 (rs12644506) was significantly associated with social integration and that SNP predicted when using a dichotomized indicator of social connectedness (adjusted p=0.02), but not a continuous measure of social connectedness or the continuously married outcome. A significant gender-heterogeneous effect was identified in one OXTR SNP on dichotomized social connectedness; specifically, rs4686302 T allele was nominally associated with social connectedness in men, whereas the association direction was opposite in women (adjusted gender heterogeneity p=0.02). Furthermore, the rs53576 A allele was significantly associated with social connectedness only in women, and the effect magnitude was stronger in a dominant genetic model (adjusted p=0.003). In summary, our findings suggested that common genetic variants of OXTR, CD38, and AVPR1A are not associated with social integration as measured in this study using the simplified Berkman-Syme Social Network Index, but these findings and other work hint that effects may be modified by gender or other social experiences. Further work considering genetic pathways in relation to social integration may be more fruitful if these additional factors can be more comprehensively evaluated.
"Individuals homozygous for the G allele of OXTR variant rs53576, who are hypothesized to be more sensitive to the effects of oxytocin, exhibit less stress and greater empathic accuracy after being directed to attend to others' feelings (Rodrigues, Saslow, Garcia, John, & Keltner, 2009) and engage in more charitable behavior under conditions of perceived social threat (Poulin et al., 2012) than do others. In contrast, however, OXTR variants have not been shown to predict social integration in a large community sample (Chang et al., 2014). It is important to note that the role of OXTR variant rs53576 may differ by ethnicity, with some evidence indicating that it predicts social behavior in European American (White) individuals but not for members of other ethnic groups (Kim et al., 2010; Poulin et al., 2012). "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Can empathy for others motivate aggression on their behalf? This research examined potential predictors of empathy-linked aggression including the emotional state of empathy, an empathy target's distress state, and the function of the social anxiety-modulating neuropeptides oxytocin and vasopressin. In Study 1 (N = 69), self-reported empathy combined with threat to a close other and individual differences in genes for the vasopressin receptor (AVPR1a rs3) and oxytocin receptor (OXTR rs53576) to predict self-reported aggression against a person who threatened a close other. In Study 2 (N = 162), induced empathy for a person combined with OXTR variation or with that person's distress and AVPR1a variation led to increased amount of hot sauce assigned to that person's competitor. Empathy uniquely predicts aggression and may do so by way of aspects of the human caregiving system in the form of oxytocin and vasopressin.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 11/2014; 40(11):1406-22. DOI:10.1177/0146167214549320 · 2.52 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Recent research has revealed an association between collectivistic cultural values and allelic frequency of the serotonin transporter polymorphism (5-HTTLPR). The current study investigated whether collectivistic cultural values are also associated the allelic frequency of another gene, i.e., the oxytocin receptor gene polymorphism (OXTR rs53576), which has been linked to social cognition and behavior. In addition, we examined whether OXTR rs53576 can explain the relationships between pathogen prevalence, collectivistic cultural values and prevalence of major depression disorder. We found that, across 12 nations, A allelic frequency of OXTR rs53576 correlates with collectivistic cultural values. Moreover, A allelic frequency of OXTR rs53576 mediates the relationship between pathogen prevalence and collectivistic cultural values. Finally, A allele frequency of OXTR rs53576 is predictive of major depression disorder prevalence across nations and such associated is mediated by collectivistic cultural values. Taken together, our findings provide evidence for the mediating role of OXTR rs53576 in the association between pathogen prevalence and cultural values and support the functional role of OXTR rs53576 in human mental health.
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