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Neuropeptides. 2012 Oct;46(5):211-5. doi: 10.1016/j.npep.2012.07.001. Epub 2012 Aug 11.

Oxytocin plasma concentrations after single intranasal oxytocin administration - a study in healthy men.

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Department of Psychiatry, RWTH Aachen University, and JARA - Translational Brain Medicine, Aachen, Germany.


The neuropeptide oxytocin has become a subject of great interest in studies investigating human social cognition. Single intranasal administration of the hormone has been reported to have positive behavioral effects, such as increasing trust or facilitating social approach, 45-80 min after administration. However, little is still known about the long-term pharmacokinetics of oxytocin nasal spray application in humans. This study addressed the question how long oxytocin plasma levels remain elevated following nasal spray administration. Another goal was to examine the influence of oxytocin administration on endogenous steroid hormones since such alterations might modulate social behavior via an indirect way. Eight healthy Caucasian men were challenged with a single intranasal application of 26 international units of oxytocin. Changes in oxytocin blood plasma levels, as well as steroid hormone levels of progesterone, testosterone and estradiol were assessed at 5 consecutive time points over a period of 3.5 h (-5, +30, +90, +150, +210 min relative to oxytocin administration). Results gave evidence for a substantial rise of oxytocin plasma levels 30 min after intranasal administration, observed in 7 of 8 participants. Group mean oxytocin plasma level was found to have returned to baseline already 90 min post administration, though in some individuals the plasma levels was still elevated relative to sampling at post 150 min. Steroid hormone analyses yielded a slight augmentation of endogenous testosterone levels 210 min after oxytocin administration. Our data confirms previous findings that oxytocin administered as a nasal spray enters the blood circulation, elevating oxytocin plasma levels for a limited time. Our findings suggest that this time window differs between individuals, but that, for the used dose, it does not extend beyond 150 min post administration. The data further provides preliminary evidence that intranasal oxytocin has an enhancing effect on testosterone in healthy men.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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