Header

UZH-Logo

Maintenance Infos

The awareness of the scared - context dependent influence of oxytocin on brain function


Baettig, Linda; Baeumelt, Andreas; Ernst, Jutta; Boeker, Heinz; Grimm, Simone; Richter, Andre (2020). The awareness of the scared - context dependent influence of oxytocin on brain function. Brain imaging and behavior, 14(6):2073-2083.

Abstract

Oxytocin is both a hormone and a neurotransmitter and has been originally recognized for its role in childbirth and lactation. Later, it became widely known as a "cuddle hormone" that induces trusting behavior towards strangers and reduces social stress and anxiety. Several studies showed that oxytocin influences empathic behavior and has prosocial effects. The anterior cingulate cortex and the anterior insula are brain regions that are active when humans observe fear in others. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate whether oxytocin administration affects activity in these regions depending on whether a threat is directed at another person (empathy) compared to when the threat is directed at the subject itself (fear). Our findings demonstrate increased anterior cingulate cortex activation after oxytocin administration in the fear, but not in the empathy condition. Furthermore, oxytocin administration was associated with deceased anterior insula activity in the empathy condition. However, our findings do not support the idea that oxytocin generally augments activity in brain regions associated with empathy. Thereby this study supports current research questioning that oxytocin has exclusively prosocial effects on human behavior. Rather, the effect of oxytocin depends on various contextual (e.g. presence of a familiar person) and interindividual (e.g. sex, mental disorder) factors. Therefore, to consider oxytocin an empathy inducing hormone is an oversimplification and future research should focus on factors moderating oxytocin effects.

Abstract

Oxytocin is both a hormone and a neurotransmitter and has been originally recognized for its role in childbirth and lactation. Later, it became widely known as a "cuddle hormone" that induces trusting behavior towards strangers and reduces social stress and anxiety. Several studies showed that oxytocin influences empathic behavior and has prosocial effects. The anterior cingulate cortex and the anterior insula are brain regions that are active when humans observe fear in others. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate whether oxytocin administration affects activity in these regions depending on whether a threat is directed at another person (empathy) compared to when the threat is directed at the subject itself (fear). Our findings demonstrate increased anterior cingulate cortex activation after oxytocin administration in the fear, but not in the empathy condition. Furthermore, oxytocin administration was associated with deceased anterior insula activity in the empathy condition. However, our findings do not support the idea that oxytocin generally augments activity in brain regions associated with empathy. Thereby this study supports current research questioning that oxytocin has exclusively prosocial effects on human behavior. Rather, the effect of oxytocin depends on various contextual (e.g. presence of a familiar person) and interindividual (e.g. sex, mental disorder) factors. Therefore, to consider oxytocin an empathy inducing hormone is an oversimplification and future research should focus on factors moderating oxytocin effects.

Statistics

Citations

Dimensions.ai Metrics
1 citation in Web of Science®
1 citation in Scopus®
Google Scholar™

Altmetrics

Downloads

19 downloads since deposited on 18 Feb 2020
19 downloads since 12 months
Detailed statistics

Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, further contribution
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > University Hospital Zurich > Klinik für Konsiliarpsychiatrie und Psychosomatik
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Scopus Subject Areas:Health Sciences > Radiology, Nuclear Medicine and Imaging
Life Sciences > Neurology
Life Sciences > Cognitive Neuroscience
Health Sciences > Neurology (clinical)
Life Sciences > Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
Health Sciences > Psychiatry and Mental Health
Life Sciences > Behavioral Neuroscience
Uncontrolled Keywords:Cognitive Neuroscience, Behavioral Neuroscience, Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging, Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience, Neurology, Psychiatry and Mental health, Clinical Neurology
Language:English
Date:1 December 2020
Deposited On:18 Feb 2020 15:42
Last Modified:08 Nov 2020 02:03
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:1931-7557
OA Status:Green
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s11682-019-00143-2
PubMed ID:31317388

Download

Green Open Access

Download PDF  'The awareness of the scared - context dependent influence of oxytocin on brain function'.
Preview
Content: Accepted Version
Language: English
Filetype: PDF
Size: 2MB
View at publisher