PLASMA OXYTOCIN CONCENTRATION and DEPRESSIVE SYMPTOMS: A REVIEW of CURRENT EVIDENCE and DIRECTIONS for FUTURE RESEARCH

Suena H. Massey*, Katherine A. Backes, Stephanie A. Schuette

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations

Abstract

There is substantial recent interest in the role of oxytocin in social and affiliative behaviors - animal models of depression have suggested a link between oxytocin and mood. We reviewed literature to date for evidence of a potential relationship between peripheral oxytocin concentration and depressive symptoms in humans. Pubmed®and PsychINFO®were searched for biomedical and social sciences literature from 1960 to May 19, 2015 for empirical articles in English involving human subjects focused on the relationship between peripheral oxytocin concentration and depressive symptoms, excluding articles on the oxytocin receptor gene, or involving exogenous (i.e. intranasal) administration of oxytocin. Eight studies meeting criteria were identified and formally reviewed. Studies of pregnant women suggested an inverse relationship between oxytocin level and depressive symptom severity. Findings in nonpregnant women were broadly consistent with the role of oxytocin release in response to stress supported by animal studies. The relationship between oxytocin and depression in men appeared to be in the opposite direction, possibly reflecting the influence of gonadal hormones on oxytocinergic functioning found in other mammalian species. Overall, small sample sizes, heterogeneity in study designs, and other methodological limitations may account for inconsistent findings. Future research utilizing reliable oxytocin measurement protocols including measurements across time, larger sample sizes, and sample homogeneity with respect to multiple possible confounders (age, gender, race and ethnicity, ovarian status among women, and psychosocial context) are needed to elucidate the role of oxytocin in the pathogenesis of depression, and could guide the design of novel pharmacologic agents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)316-322
Number of pages7
JournalDepression and anxiety
Volume33
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016

Keywords

  • biological markers
  • depressive disorder
  • humans
  • neuropeptides
  • pregnancy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology

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