Oxytocin Modulates Amygdala, Insula, and Inferior Frontal Gyrus Responses to Infant Crying: A Randomized Controlled Trial

M.M.E. Riem, Marian J. Bakermans-Kranenburg*, Suzanne Pieper, Mattie Tops, Maarten A. S. Boksem, Robert R. J. M. Vermeiren, Marinus H. van IJzendoorn, Serge A. R. B. Rombouts

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

245 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: Oxytocin facilitates parental caregiving and mother-infant bonding and might be involved in responses to infant crying. Infant crying provides information about the physical status and mood of the infant and elicits parental proximity and caregiving. Oxytocin might modulate the activation of brain structures involved in the perception of cry sounds-specifically the insula, the amygdala, and the thalamocingulate circuit-and thereby affect responsiveness to infant crying.

Method: In a randomized controlled trial we investigated the influence of intranasally administered oxytocin on neural responses to infant crying with functional magnetic resonance imaging. Blood oxygenation level-dependent responses to infant crying were measured in 21 women who were administered oxytocin and 21 women who were administered a placebo.

Results: Induced oxytocin levels reduced, experimentally, activation in the amygdala and increased activation in the insula and inferior frontal gyrus pars triangularis.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that oxytocin promotes responsiveness to infant crying by reducing activation in the neural circuitry for anxiety and aversion and increasing activation in regions involved in empathy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-297
Number of pages7
JournalBiological Psychiatry
Volume70
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2011
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Amygdala
  • fMRI
  • infant crying and parenting
  • insula
  • oxytocin
  • RCT
  • MENSTRUAL-CYCLE
  • RECEPTOR DISTRIBUTIONS
  • DEPRESSIVE SYMPTOMS
  • PSYCHOSOCIAL STRESS
  • SOCIAL COGNITION
  • NEURAL CIRCUITRY
  • PLASMA OXYTOCIN
  • MATERNAL BRAIN
  • HUMANS
  • PITCH

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