The effects of oxytocin and vasopressin administration on fathers' neural responses to infant crying: A randomized controlled within-subject study

Annemieke M Witte, Madelon M E Riem, N van der Knaap, Marleen H M de Moor, Marinus H van IJzendoorn, Marian J Bakermans-Kranenburg

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Abstract

In a randomized double-blind within-subject control study we investigated the effects of oxytocin and vasopressin administration on neural reactivity to infant cry sounds in 70 first-time fathers in the first year of fatherhood. Additionally, we examined whether effects of oxytocin and vasopressin administration on neural reactivity were moderated by fathers' early childhood experiences. Neural reactivity to infant cry sounds (versus control sounds) was measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Furthermore, participants reported on their childhood experiences of parental harsh discipline and parental love withdrawal. Whole brain analyses revealed no significant effect of vasopressin or oxytocin administration on neural activation in response to infant cry sounds. Region of interest analyses showed decreased amygdala activation in both the oxytocin condition and the vasopressin condition as compared to placebo. We found no moderating effects of fathers' early childhood experiences. Our findings suggest that oxytocin administration may decrease feelings of anxiety or aversion to a crying infant. Whether decreased amygdala activation after vasopressin administration might be explained by contextual factors (e.g., absence of high levels of threat, unfamiliarity of the infant) or represents an affiliative response to infant distress warrants further investigation. Findings of the present study showed that oxytocin and vasopressin are important hormones implicated in neural models of infant cry perception in fatherhood.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105731
Pages (from-to)105731
JournalPsychoneuroendocrinology
Volume140
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022

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Copyright © 2022 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.. All rights reserved.

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