Oxytocin Receptor (OXTR) Polymorphisms and Attachment in Human Infants

Department of Psychology, University of Freiburg Freiburg, Germany.
Frontiers in Psychology (Impact Factor: 2.8). 08/2011; 2:200. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00200
Source: PubMed


Ordinary variations in human infants' attachment behaviors - their proclivity to seek and accept comfort from caregivers - are associated with a wide range of individual differences in psychological functioning in adults. The current investigation examined variation in the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene as one possible source of these variations in infant attachment. One hundred seventy-six infants (77 Caucasian, 99 non-Caucasian) were classified as securely or insecurely attached based on their behavior in the Strange Situation (Ainsworth et al., 1978). The A allele of OXTR rs2254298 was associated with attachment security in the non-Caucasian infants (p < 0.005). These findings underscore the importance of oxytocin in the development of human social behavior and support its role in social stress-regulation and the development of trust.

Download full-text


Available from: Frances Chen, Oct 13, 2015
16 Reads
  • Source
    • "Following a cohort of parents and their firstborn infants from birth to three years, we found that parent-infant synchrony at 1 and 6 months and mothers' CD38 alleles predicted children's peripheral OT and higher social reciprocity during interactions with their best friend at three years (Feldman et al., 2013b). Finally, following a cohort of children from infancy to adulthood continuity in attachment security from 1 to 26 years and transfer from parental and romantic attachment was found only among OXTR rs53576 GG homozygous ( Raby et al., 2013) and OXTRrs2254298 A allele was associated with infant attachment security, but only among non-Caucasian infants (Chen et al., 2011). These findings point to the involvement of OT-pathway genes in parent-child interaction, parental quality, and the continuity of attachment and suggest that some OXTR genotypes may open children to greater susceptibility to environmental influences, for better and for worse (Belsky & Pluess, 2013). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Research on the neurobiology of attachment, pioneered by scholars in the generation that followed the discovery of social bonding, examined the biological basis of mammalian parenting through systematic experiments in animal models and their application to theories on human attachment. This paper argues for the need to construct a theory on the neurobiology of human attachment that integrates findings in animal models with human neuroscience research to formulate concepts based on experimental, not only extrapolative data. Rosenblatt's (2003) three characteristics of mammalian parenting - rapid formation of attachment, behavioral synchrony, and mother-offspring attachment as basis of social organization - are used to guide discussion on mammalian-general versus human-specific attributes of parental care. These highlight specific components of attachment in rodents, primates, and humans that chart the evolution from promiscuous, nest-bound, olfactory-based bonds to exclusive, multi-sensory, and representation-based attachments. Following, three continua are outlined in parental behavior, hormones, and brain, each detailing the evolution from rodents to humans. Parental behavior is defined as a process of trophallaxis - the reciprocal multisensory exchange that supports approach orientation and enables collaboration in social species - and includes human-specific features that enable behavioral synchrony independent of tactile contact. The oxytocin system incorporates conserved and human-specific components and is marked by pulsatile activity and dendritic release that reorganize neural networks on the basis of species-specific attachment experiences. Finally, the subcortical limbic circuit underpinning mammalian mothering extends in humans to include multiple cortical networks implicated in empathy, mentalizing, and emotion regulation that enable flexible, goal-directed caregiving. I conclude by presenting a philosophical continuum from Hobbes to Lorenz, which illustrates how research on the neurobiology of attachment can put in the forefront the social-collaborative elements in human nature and afford a new perspective on the mind-brain polarity.
    Hormones and Behavior 10/2015; DOI:10.1016/j.yhbeh.2015.10.001 · 4.63 Impact Factor
  • Source
    • "OXT is a neuropeptide that has been consistently linked to affiliative and social behaviors in preclinical and human studies [14-17]. There is accumulating evidence for the role of altered OXT functioning in the etiology of social impairments in ASDs [18]: atypical levels of plasma OXT and its precursors have been found in children with ASDs [19,20] and exogenous OXT administration has been shown to improve social functioning in children and adults with ASDs [21-23]. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: There has been significant progress in identifying genes that confer risk for autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). However, the heterogeneity of symptom presentation in ASDs impedes the detection of ASD risk genes. One approach to understanding genetic influences on ASD symptom expression is to evaluate relations between variants of ASD candidate genes and neural endophenotypes in unaffected samples. Allelic variations in the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene confer small but significant risk for ASDs for which the underlying mechanisms may involve associations between variability in oxytocin signaling pathways and neural response to rewards. The purpose of this preliminary study was to investigate the influence of allelic variability in the OXTR gene on neural responses to monetary rewards in healthy adults using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The moderating effects of three single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) (rs1042778, rs2268493 and rs237887) of the OXTR gene on mesolimbic responses to rewards were evaluated using a monetary incentive delay fMRI task. T homozygotes of the rs2268493 SNP demonstrated relatively decreased activation in mesolimbic reward circuitry (including the nucleus accumbens, amygdala, insula, thalamus and prefrontal cortical regions) during the anticipation of rewards but not during the outcome phase of the task. Allelic variation of the rs1042778 and rs237887 SNPs did not moderate mesolimbic activation during either reward anticipation or outcomes. This preliminary study suggests that the OXTR SNP rs2268493, which has been previously identified as an ASD risk gene, moderates mesolimbic responses during reward anticipation. Given previous findings of decreased mesolimbic activation during reward anticipation in ASD, the present results suggest that OXTR may confer ASD risk via influences on the neural systems that support reward anticipation.
    Molecular Autism 01/2014; 5(1):7. DOI:10.1186/2040-2392-5-7 · 5.41 Impact Factor
  • Source
    • "For example, neurotypical patients’ generosity in response to IN OT is moderated by parental love-withdrawal (Huffmeijer et al., 2012), and patients with aversive early attachment representations had a negative response to IN OT compared to those with more positive representations (Bartz et al., 2010). Other literature suggests that variation in the OT system may mediate gene-environment interactions between early adversity and outcomes (Kim et al., 2010; Bradley et al., 2011; Chen et al., 2011a; Thompson et al., 2011). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: As discussed in the larger review in this special issue (MacDonald and Feifel), intranasal oxytocin (OT) is demonstrating a growing potential as a therapeutic agent in psychiatry. Importantly, research suggests that a variety of individual factors may influence a person's response to OT. In this mini-review, I provide a review of three: (1) sex and hormonal status; (2) genetic variation in aspects of the OT system (i.e., OT receptors); and (3) attachment history. Each of these factors will be important to monitor as we strive to develop a richer understanding of OT's role in human development, brain-based disease, and the potential for individualized, OT-targeted treatments.
    Frontiers in Neuroscience 01/2012; 6:194. DOI:10.3389/fnins.2012.00194 · 3.66 Impact Factor
Show more