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Horm Behav. 2012 Jan;61(1):134-9. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2011.11.006. Epub 2011 Nov 25.

Variation in the oxytocin receptor gene influences neurocardiac reactivity to social stress and HPA function: a population based study.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.


Oxytocin (OT) is a nonapeptide neurohormone that is involved in a broad array of physiological and behavioral processes related to health including hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis functioning, autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity and social behaviors. The present study sought to explore the influence of genetic variation in the oxytocin receptor (SNP; rs53576) on autonomic and neurohormonal functioning across both resting and psychological stress conditions in a population based sample of older adults. Results revealed that A carrier males showed higher levels of resting sympathetic cardiac control as compared to their G/G counter parts. However, G/G participants displayed significantly higher levels of sympathetic reactivity to psychological stress with G/G males showing the highest levels of sympathetic response to stress. Although no significant effects were detected for heart rate or parasympathetic cardiac control across resting and stress conditions, results revealed that G/G participants generally displayed heightened stroke volume and cardiac output reactivity to the psychological stressor. Furthermore, analysis of diurnal fluctuations in salivary cortisol revealed that G/G participants displayed lower awakening cortisol levels and less variation in salivary cortisol across the day as compared to A carrier individuals.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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