Plasma oxytocin concentrations are lower in depressed vs. healthy control women and are independent of cortisol

Journal of Psychiatric Research (Impact Factor: 3.96). 01/2013; 51(1). DOI: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2013.12.012


The neuropeptide oxytocin (OT) promotes social behavior and attenuates stress responsivity in mammals. Recent clinical evidence suggests OT concentrations may be dysregulated in major depression. This study extends previous research by testing whether: 1) OT concentrations vary systematically in depressive disorders with and without hypercortisolemia, 2) gender differences in OT concentrations are observed in depressed vs. healthy control participants, and 3) OT concentrations are predictive of clinical phenotypes. Plasma OT concentrations of psychotic major depressive (PMD; n=14: 10 female, 4 male), non-psychotic major depressive (NPMD; n=17: 12 female, 5 male), and non-depressed, healthy control (n=19: 11 female, 8 male) participants were assayed at 2000, 2400, 0400, and 0800 h. Plasma cortisol concentrations were quantified at 2300 h, and clinical phenotypes were determined. As expected, PMD participants, compared to NPMD and healthy control participants, showed higher plasma cortisol concentrations. Although both depressed groups showed similar OT concentrations, a significant interaction effect between group and gender was observed. Specifically, depressed females exhibited lower mean OT concentrations than depressed males. Further, depressed vs. healthy control female participants exhibited lower mean OT concentrations, whereas depressed vs. healthy control male participants showed a trend in the opposite direction. OT concentrations were also predictive of desirability, drug dependence, and compulsivity scores as measured by the Million Clinical Multiaxial Inventory-III. All findings were independent of cortisol. These data suggest that OT signaling may provide a mechanism by which to better understand female-biased risk to develop depressive disorders and that plasma OT concentrations may be a useful biomarker of certain clinical phenotypes.

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Available from: Dean S. Carson, Sep 22, 2014
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    • "The relational model of psychological functioning is therefore crucial for understanding the level of maturation of all individuals, as they progress through critical periods of childhood, with an appreciation of the ways in which new mothers have conducted their relations with children throughout the course of their developmental trajectories (Fonagy et al., 1991; Schore, 1994). Reductions in plasma oxytocin have been noted in depressed women (Yuen et al., 2014), especially in women exhibiting post-partum depression (Kim et al., 2014). Indeed, psychosocial stressors (as a child's birth invariably is) tend to reduce plasma oxytocin more in women who get depressed than those who do not (Zelkowitz et al., 2014). "
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    ABSTRACT: Oxytocin is a neuropeptide that is active in the central nervous system and is generally considered to be involved in prosocial behaviors and feelings. In light of its documented positive effect on maternal behaviour, we designed a study to ascertain whether oxytocin exerts any therapeutic effects on depressive symptoms in women affected by maternal postnatal depression. A group of 16 mothers were recruited in a randomized double-blind study: the women agreed to take part in a brief course of psychoanalytic psychotherapy (12 sessions, once a week) while also being administered, during the 12-week period, with a daily dose of intranasal oxytocin (or a placebo). The pre-treatment evaluation also included a personality assessment of the major primary-process emotional command systems described by Panksepp (1998) and a semi-quantitative assessment by the therapist of the mother’s depressive symptoms and on her personality. No significant effect on depressive symptomatology was found following the administration of oxytocin (as compared to a placebo) during the period of psychotherapy. Nevertheless, a personality trait evaluation of the mothers, conducted in our overall sample group, showed a decrease in the narcissistic trait only within the group who took oxytocin. The depressive (dysphoric) trait was in fact significantly affected by psychotherapy (this effect was only present in the placebo group so it may reflect a positive placebo effect enhancing the favorable influence of psychotherapy on depressive symptoms) but not in the presence of oxytocin. Based on these results, we confirm our hypothesis that what is generally defined as postnatal depression may include disturbances of narcissistic affective balance, and oxytocin supplementation can counteract that type of affective disturbance.
    Frontiers in Psychology 04/2015; 6:426. DOI:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00426 · 2.80 Impact Factor
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    • "Of course, this observation raises the question whether our findings are specific for CD or may be generalizable to MDD patients; we cannot answer this question at the present time. Regarding OT plasma levels, findings in MDD vary, and both elevated and reduced OT plasma levels have been reported (Cyranowski et al., 2008; Frasch et al., 1995; Parker et al., 2010; Yuen et al., 2014 "
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    ABSTRACT: Objective: Patients with chronic depression (CD) experience a high burden of disease, severe co-morbidity, and increased mortality. Although interpersonal dysfunction is a hallmark of CD, the underlying mechanisms are largely unexplored. Oxytocin (OT) has been proposed to play a crucial role in the social deficits of mental disorders and has been found to be dysregulated after social exclusion (ostracism) in patients with borderline personality disorder. This study investigated how social exclusion affects emotions, OT levels, and cortisol (CT) levels in CD patients. Method: Twenty-one patients diagnosed with CD and 21 healthy controls (HC) matched for gender, age, and education underwent repeated neuroendocrine measurements in a standardized laboratory setting while playing Cyberball, a virtual ball-tossing game that mimics a social exclusion situation. Emotional reactions, plasma OT and cortisol levels were assessed at baseline and 5, 15, and 40 min after Cyberball. Results: At baseline, there were no group differences in OT levels. Immediately after playing Cyberball, plasma OT levels showed divergent changes in CD patients and HC; the difference in direction of change was significant with a reduction in CD patients compared to HC (p = .035*); CT levels did not differ between groups at any time point, but decreased over time. Patients showed more threatened emotional needs and increased negative emotions, especially anger and resentment, and showed higher sensitivity to ambiguous threat of social exclusion than healthy controls. Conclusions: CD patients react to ostracism with pronounced negative emotions. The reduction in OT levels in CD patients after social exclusion may contribute to their interpersonal dysfunction and their difficulty in coping adequately with aversive social cues.
    Journal of Psychiatric Research 11/2014; 60. DOI:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2014.11.001 · 3.96 Impact Factor
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    • "Indeed some studies used only female participants , whereas others included both males and females. This may be of particular concern as depressed females display lower plasma oxytocin concentrations compared to controls, while depressed males showed a trend in the opposite direction (Yuen et al., 2014). Additionally, in virtually all studies oxytocin was examined under baseline conditions, but infrequently assessed following a challenge (e.g., Cyranowski et al., 2008). "
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    ABSTRACT: Depression is accompanied by an array of neurobiological variations, including altered HPA axis activity, monoamine, growth factor and inflammatory immune functioning. In addition, a recent perspective has entertained the possible role for oxytocin in depressive disorders. Given the involvement of oxytocin in prosocial behaviors such as attachment, affiliation, trust, and social support seeking, it is not surprising this neuropeptide might be involved in the development or maintenance of depressive disorders. This view is supported by evidence that oxytocin interacts with various neuroendocrine, neurotransmitter, and inflammatory processes that have previously been implicated in depression. Thus, it might be profitable to consider the contribution of oxytocin in the context of several neurobiological changes provoked by stressors. The current review examines the relation between oxytocin and depression with a specific focus on the interactions between the oxytocinergic system and stressor-provoked biological and psychosocial responses. The possibility is also considered that oxytocin might increase the salience of social cues, such that positive or negative experiences result in exaggerated responses that may influence affective states.
    Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 09/2014; 45. DOI:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2014.07.005 · 8.80 Impact Factor
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