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Author Notes:

Corresponding author at: Department of Anthropology, Emory University, 207 Anthropology Building, 1557 Dickey Drive, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA. jrillin@emory.edu (J.K. Rilling).

We thank Lynnet Richey for assistance with making figures and Elissar Andari for many helpful comments on the manuscript.

The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Subjects:

Research Funding:

This study was supported by National Institute of Child Health and Human Development [grant R21HD078778] and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health [award number UL1TR000454].

Keywords:

  • Science & Technology
  • Life Sciences & Biomedicine
  • Behavioral Sciences
  • Endocrinology & Metabolism
  • Oxytocin
  • Vasopressin
  • Father
  • fMRI
  • RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED-TRIAL
  • BRAIN REWARD SYSTEM
  • MATERNAL-BEHAVIOR
  • SOCIAL COGNITION
  • PATERNAL BEHAVIOR
  • ADULT ATTACHMENT
  • CINGULATE CORTEX
  • SEXUAL STIMULI
  • INFANT
  • EMPATHY

Intranasal oxytocin, but not vasopressin, augments neural responses to toddlers in human fathers

Tools:

Journal Title:

Hormones and Behavior

Volume:

Volume 93

Publisher:

, Pages 193-202

Type of Work:

Article | Post-print: After Peer Review

Abstract:

This study investigates paternal brain function with the hope of better understanding the neural basis for variation in caregiving involvement among men. The neuropeptides oxytocin (OT) and vasopressin (AVP) are implicated in paternal caregiving in humans and other species. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled, within-subject pharmaco-functional MRI experiment, we randomized 30 fathers of 1–2 year old children to receive either 24 IU intranasal OT before one scan and placebo before the other scan (n = 15) or 20 IU intranasal AVP before one scan and placebo before the other scan (n = 15). Brain function was measured with fMRI as the fathers viewed pictures of their children, unknown children and unknown adults, and as they listened to unknown infant cry stimuli. Intranasal OT, but not AVP, significantly increased the BOLD fMRI response to viewing pictures of own children within the caudate nucleus, a target of midbrain dopamine projections, as well as the dorsal anterior cingulate (dACC) and visual cortex, suggesting that intranasal oxytocin augments activation in brain regions involved in reward, empathy and attention in human fathers. OT effects also varied as a function of order of administration such that when OT was given before placebo, it increased activation within several reward-related structures (substantia nigra, ventral tegmental area, putamen) more than when it was given after placebo. Neither OT nor AVP had significant main effects on the neural response to cries. Our findings suggest that the hormonal changes associated with the transition to fatherhood are likely to facilitate increased approach motivation and empathy for children, and call for future research that evaluates the potential of OT to normalize deficits in paternal motivation, as might be found among men suffering from post-partum depression.

Copyright information:

© 2017 Elsevier Inc.

This is an Open Access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

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