Background: Central oxytocin (OT) is critically involved in mediating social bonding and protecting against stress, depression, and anxiety. In animal models, early social experiences induce changes in central OT systems. In humans, early parental separation (EPS) increases the risk for emotional disorders in adulthood. We examined neuroendocrine responses to intranasal OT administration in men with EPS and healthy control subjects as an estimate of central OT sensitivity. Methods: Salivary cortisol concentrations were measured in 9 healthy men with EPS and 10 control subjects before and after double-blind intranasal administration of placebo and OT (24 IU Syntocinon). Results: Relative to placebo, intranasal OT resulted in attenuated cortisol decreases in EPS subjects compared with control subjects. Conclusions: These preliminary results may suggest altered central sensitivity to the effects of OT after EPS. Future studies should replicate these results and scrutinize the role of OT in mediating risk versus resilience to psychopathology after early social adversity.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biological Psychiatry