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Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2011 Jun;6(3):294-300. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsq035. Epub 2010 Apr 16.

Oxytocin receptor gene and depressive symptoms associated with physiological reactivity to infant crying.

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  • 1Centre for Child and Family Studies, Leiden University, 2300 RB Leiden, the Netherlands.


Both the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene and depressive symptoms have been associated with parenting behaviour. The OXTR GG genotype has been suggested to be related to more sensitive parenting, whereas depressive symptoms may affect sensitivity negatively. We examined the role of OXTR and the influence of depressive symptoms in explaining differences in physiological reactivity to infant crying. Heart rate responses of 40 healthy females without children (age 19-47 years, randomly selected half of twin pairs) were measured during the presentation of three episodes of infant cry sounds. Participants with the presumably more efficient variant of the oxytonergic system gene (OXTR GG) had more pronounced physiological reactivity to repeated cry sounds, except when they showed more symptoms of depression. Results were replicated in the second half of the twin sample. This is the first study to suggest effects of OXTR genotype on physiological reactivity to infant crying. Depressive symptoms may however suppress the effect of the OXTR GG genotype.

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