Oxytocin and vasopressin in male forensic psychiatric patients with personality disorders and healthy controls

Youri R. Berends*, Joke H.M. Tulen, André I. Wierdsma, Johannes Van Pelt, Ruth Feldman, Orna Zagoory-Sharon, Yolanda B. de Rijke, Steven A. Kushner, Hjalmar J.C. van Marle

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Oxytocin and vasopressin are neuropeptides implicated as modulators of human aggressive behavior. In animal models, administration of oxytocin generally attenuates aggressive behavior, but in humans the effects of oxytocin appear to be more nuanced. Vasopressin seems to have an opposing influence on aggression in animal studies, but much less research has been done in humans. We performed a cross-sectional study in which we measured oxytocin and vasopressin levels in forensic psychiatric male patients with a personality disorder (N = 38) and healthy male controls (N = 108). Elevated salivary oxytocin (B = −0.10, P = 0.02) and reduced urinary vasopressin (B = 0,19, P < 0.01) levels were found in patients compared to controls. Within the patient group urinary oxytocin levels were positively associated with psychopathy scores as measured with the PCL-R (B = 0.02, P = 0.02). These findings suggest that baseline levels in forensic psychiatric patients diagnosed with a primary personality disorder might be counterintuitive, as oxytocin levels are higher than expected and vasopressin levels are lower than those of healthy controls. More generally, the results imply a complex role of these neuropeptides on human behavior, in line with the social salience theory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)130-151
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology
Issue number1
Early online date26 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by Fivoor, the Erasmus MC and the Koningsheide foundation (P2013/485). The authors thank M. Bennaars, A.F. Juriaans and T.L. van Dijl for their contribution to the data collection.

Publisher Copyright: © 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


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