Oxytocin receptor gene variation predicts subjective responses to MDMA.
ABSTRACT: 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, "ecstasy") enhances desire to socialize and feelings of empathy, which are thought to be related to increased oxytocin levels. Thus, variation in the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) may influence responses to the drug. Here, we examined the influence of a single OXTR nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) on responses to MDMA in humans. Based on findings that carriers of the A allele at rs53576 exhibit reduced sensitivity to oxytocin-induced social behavior, we hypothesized that these individuals would show reduced subjective responses to MDMA, including sociability. In this three-session, double blind, within-subjects study, healthy volunteers with past MDMA experience (N = 68) received a MDMA (0, 0.75 mg/kg, and 1.5 mg/kg) and provided self-report ratings of sociability, anxiety, and drug effects. These responses were examined in relation to rs53576. MDMA (1.5 mg/kg) did not increase sociability in individuals with the A/A genotype as it did in G allele carriers. The genotypic groups did not differ in responses at the lower MDMA dose, or in cardiovascular or other subjective responses. These findings are consistent with the idea that MDMA-induced sociability is mediated by oxytocin, and that variation in the oxytocin receptor gene may influence responses to the drug.
Project description:Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) increases oxytocin, empathy, and prosociality. Oxytocin plays a critical role in emotion processing and social behavior and has been shown to mediate the prosocial effects of MDMA in animals. Genetic variants, such as single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), of the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) may influence the emotional and social effects of MDMA in humans. The effects of common genetic variants of the OXTR (rs53576, rs1042778, and rs2254298 SNPs) on the emotional, empathogenic, and prosocial effects of MDMA were characterized in up to 132 healthy subjects in a pooled analysis of eight double-blind, placebo-controlled studies. In a subset of 53 subjects, MDMA produced significantly greater feelings of trust in rs1042778 TT genotypes compared with G allele carriers. The rs53576 and rs225498 SNPs did not moderate the subjective effects of MDMA in up to 132 subjects. None of the SNPs moderated MDMA-induced impairments in negative facial emotion recognition or enhancements in emotional empathy in the Multifaceted Empathy Test in 69 subjects. MDMA significantly increased plasma oxytocin concentrations. MDMA and oxytocin concentrations did not differ between OXTR gene variants. The present results provide preliminary evidence that OXTR gene variations may modulate aspects of the prosocial subjective effects of MDMA in humans. However, interpretation should be cautious due to the small sample size. Additionally, OXTR SNPs did not moderate the subjective overall effect of MDMA (any drug effect) or feelings of "closeness to others". TRIAL REGISTRATION:ClinicalTrials.gov: http://www.clinicaltrials.gov, No: NCT00886886, NCT00990067, NCT01136278, NCT01270672, NCT01386177, NCT01465685, NCT01771874, and NCT01951508.
Project description:MDMA (± 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, 'ecstasy') is used recreationally, reportedly because it increases feelings of empathy, sociability, and interpersonal closeness. One line of evidence suggests that MDMA produces these effects by releasing oxytocin, a peptide involved in social bonding. In the current study, we investigated the acute effects of MDMA and oxytocin on social and emotional processing in healthy human volunteers. MDMA users (N = 65) participated in a 4-session, within-between-subjects study in which they received oral MDMA (0.75, 1.5 mg/kg), intranasal oxytocin (20 or 40 IU), or placebo under double-blind conditions. The primary outcomes included measures of emotion recognition and sociability (desire to be with others). Cardiovascular and subjective effects were also assessed. As expected, MDMA dose-dependently increased heart rate and blood pressure and feelings of euphoria (eg, 'High' and 'Like Drug'). On measures of social function, MDMA impaired recognition of angry and fearful facial expressions, and the larger dose (1.5 mg/kg) increased desire to be with others, compared with placebo. Oxytocin produced small but significant increases in feelings of sociability and enhanced recognition of sad facial expressions. Additionally, responses to oxytocin were related to responses to MDMA with subjects on two subjective measures of sociability. Thus, MDMA increased euphoria and feelings of sociability, perhaps by reducing sensitivity to subtle signs of negative emotions in others. The present findings provide only limited support for the idea that oxytocin produces the prosocial effects of MDMA.
Project description:RATIONALE:Oxytocin is a neuropeptide that is associated with increases in social affiliative behaviors, particularly toward infants. However, no previous study has investigated healthy adults' responses to infant faces following oxytocin administration. In addition, given that preliminary evidence suggests that a single-nucleotide polymorphism of the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene, rs53576, may influence behaviors associated with parental sensitivity, we assessed whether such responses vary according to OXTR rs53576 genotype. OBJECTIVES:The present study assessed the effects of intranasally administered oxytocin and OXTR genotype on human adults' preferences for infant faces. METHODS:A double-blind, between-groups design was used, with 57 genotyped volunteers randomly assigned to receive intranasally administered oxytocin or placebo. Fifty minutes following the administration of oxytocin or placebo, participants viewed infants' and adults' faces showing neutral expressions and assessed how appealing they found each face. RESULTS:Infants' faces were more strongly preferred following oxytocin inhalation relative to placebo. When participants were separated according to genotype, this effect was only observed for participants homozygous for the rs53576G allele. Parallel effects were not seen for adults' faces. CONCLUSIONS:The present results are consistent with the hypothesis that acute oxytocin administration increases sensitivity to reward-relevant features of infants and/or reduces sensitivity to their aversive properties. The results are also consistent with suggestions of more efficient oxytocinergic function in rs53576G homozygotes.
Project description:Recent research indicates that the neuropeptide oxytocin and the gene for the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) have been implicated in the modulation of various social behaviors, including those related to empathy and sensitivity to others. In this study, we examine the hypothesis that genetic variation in OXTR is associated with autonomic reactions when perceiving others in distress. We also explore the possibility that individual disposition in empathic concern would differ by OXTR genotype. To address these questions, 51 male participants (18-35 years of age), genotyped for OXTR rs53576, viewed a social interaction containing high levels of individual distress and apparent physical pain. Electrodermal activity, a measure of sympathetic nervous system activity, was collected during the presentation of the stimuli. Participants also completed a self-report dispositional measure of empathy prior to starting the study and provided ratings of arousal while viewing the stimuli. OXTR variant rs53576 GG individuals showed increased levels of sympathetic and subjective arousal in response to the stimuli compared to A allele carriers. GG homozygotes also expressed greater levels of empathic concern. These findings support the importance of the oxytocin receptor variation in emotional and physiological reactions to the affective experiences of other conspecifics.
Project description:The neuropeptide oxytocin has played an essential role in the regulation of social behavior and attachment throughout mammalian evolution. Because recent studies in humans have shown that oxytocin administration reduces stress responses and increases prosocial behavior, we investigated whether a common single nucleotide polymorphism (rs53576) in the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) might interact with stress-protective effects of social support. Salivary cortisol samples and subjective stress ratings were obtained from 194 healthy male participants before, during, and after a standardized psychosocial laboratory stress procedure. Participants were randomly assigned either to prepare alone or to receive social support from their female partner or close female friend while preparing for the stressful task. Differential stress responses between the genotype groups were observed depending on the presence or absence of social support. Only individuals with one or two copies of the G allele of rs53576 showed lower cortisol responses to stress after social support, compared with individuals with the same genotype receiving no social support. These results indicate that genetic variation of the oxytocin system modulates the effectiveness of positive social interaction as a protective buffer against a stressful experience.
Project description:Recent evidence suggests that the association between oxytocin receptor polymorphism (OXTR rs53576) and emotion-related behavioral/psychological tendencies differs between individuals from East Asian and Western cultures. What remains unresolved is which specific dimension of cultural orientations interacts with OXTR rs53576 to shape these tendencies and whether such gene × culture interactions occurs at both behavioral and neural level. This study investigated whether and how OXTR rs53576 interacts with interdependence-a key dimension of cultural orientations that distinguish between East Asian and Western cultures-to affect human empathy that underlies altruistic motivation and prosocial behavior. Experiment 1 measured interdependence, empathy trait and OXTR rs53576 genotypes of 1536 Chinese participants. Hierarchical regression analyses revealed a stronger association between interdependence and empathy trait in G allele carriers compared with A/A homozygotes of OXTR rs53576. Experiment 2 measured neural responses to others' suffering by scanning A/A and G/G homozygous of OXTR rs53576 using functional magnetic resonance imaging. Hierarchical regression analyses revealed stronger associations between interdependence and empathic neural responses in the insula, amygdala and superior temporal gyrus in G/G compared with A/A carriers. Our results provide the first evidence for gene × culture interactions on empathy at both behavioral tendency and underlying brain activity.
Project description:The single nucleotide polymorphism rs53576 of the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene is involved in forming and maintaining relationships in various social contexts. However, this has not been studied in the childhood peer context. The present study followed 359 children (51.6% girls) from age 9 to 12 to explore associations between OXTR rs53576 genotype (i.e., AA, AG or GG genotype) and three indicators of children's relationships with peers: likability and dis-likability among, and friendship with, classroom peers. Our results showed that OXTR rs53576 was associated with likability among boys, but not with dis-likability and friendship or among girls. Boys with an A and a G allele (i.e., AG genotype) became increasingly more liked by their peers across the four-year studied period than those with two A alleles or two G alleles (i.e., AA and GG genotype). This study indicates that OXTR rs53576 genotype might influence children's peer relationships, particularly their likeability among peers. Associations between OXTR rs53576 and peer relationships may differ depending on children's sex and the specific type of peer-relationship under scrutiny.
Project description:Oxytocin (OT) and a polymorphism (rs53576) in the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) have been independently associated with stress reactivity, whereas oxytocin's sister peptide, arginine vasopressin (AVP) and polymorphisms in the vasopressin receptor gene (AVPR1A) have been independently associated with aggressive behavior. In this study, 68 men and 98 women were genotyped for the OXTR rs53576 polymorphism and the AVPR1A RS1 polymorphism. Baseline and poststressor levels of plasma OT, plasma AVP, positive affect, and anger were assessed. Women, but not men, with high levels of poststressor OT and the GG genotype of rs53576 felt the most positive affect after the stressor. Men, but not women, with high levels of poststressor AVP and the 320 allele of the RS1 polymorphism reported more poststressor anger than noncarriers. These data constitute the first evidence that oxytocin and vasopressin receptor genes interact with levels of OT and AVP to predict sex-specific emotional stress responses.
Project description:OXTR rs53576, a polymorphism on the oxytocin receptor gene, has previously been linked to individual differences in social behaviors. That is, individuals with the GG genotype show greater empathy, sociability, and emotional stability. In the context of close relationships, such psychological resources are associated with better relationship outcomes. However, no studies to our knowledge have examined associations between spouses' OXTR polymorphisms, attachment security, and marital satisfaction. In the current study, 178 married couples (N = 356; ages 37-90) completed self-report measures of attachment security and marital satisfaction and provided saliva samples for genotyping. Results from Actor Partner Interdependence Models showed that individuals who had the GG genotype (actor effect) or had a spouse with the GG genotype (partner effect) reported greater marital satisfaction than individuals with AA or AG genotypes. Furthermore, greater attachment security mediated associations between GG genotype and marital satisfaction.
Project description:Oxytocin appears beneficial for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and more than 20 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in oxytocin receptor (OXTR) are relevant to ASD. However, neither biological functions of OXTR SNPs in ASD nor critical OXTR SNPs that determine oxytocin's effects on ASD remains known. Here, using a machine-learning algorithm that was designed to evaluate collective effects of multiple SNPs and automatically identify most informative SNPs, we examined relationships between 27 representative OXTR SNPs and six types of behavioral/neural response to oxytocin in ASD individuals. The oxytocin effects were extracted from our previous placebo-controlled within-participant clinical trial administering single-dose intranasal oxytocin to 38 high-functioning adult Japanese ASD males. Consequently, we identified six different SNP sets that could accurately predict the six different oxytocin efficacies, and confirmed the robustness of these SNP selections against variations of the datasets and analysis parameters. Moreover, major alleles of several prominent OXTR SNPs-including rs53576 and rs2254298-were found to have dissociable effects on the oxytocin efficacies. These findings suggest biological functions of the OXTR SNP variants on autistic oxytocin responses, and implied that clinical oxytocin efficacy may be genetically predicted before its actual administration, which would contribute to establishment of future precision medicines for ASD.