New Study on the Interactive Influence of Oxytocin and Testosterone

A new open access study from Germany in the journal, Scientific Reports

Title:  Endogenous testosterone and exogenous oxytocin influence the response to baby schema in the female brain

Authors:  Sarah K. C. Holtfrerich, Roland Pfster, Alexander T. El Gammal, Eugen Bellon & Esther K. Diekhof

Abstract:  "Nurturing behavior may be critically influenced by the interplay of different hormones. The neuropeptide oxytocin is known to promote maternal behavior and its reduction has been associated with postpartum depression risk and child neglect. Contrariwise, the observed decrease in testosterone level during early parenthood may benefit caretaking behavior, whereas increased testosterone may reduce attention to infants. Here we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate the interactive influence of testosterone and oxytocin on selective attention to and neural processing of the baby schema (BS). 57 nulliparous women performed a target detection task with human faces with varying degree of BS following double-blinded placebo-controlled oxytocin administration in a between-subjects design. Our results support the idea that oxytocin enhances attention to the BS. Oxytocin had a positive effect on activation of the inferior frontal junction during identification of infant targets with a high degree of BS that were presented among adult distractors. Further, activation of the putamen was positively correlated with selective attention to the BS, but only in women with high endogenous testosterone who received oxytocin. These findings provide initial evidence for the neural mechanism by which oxytocin may counteract the negative effects of testosterone in the modulation of nurturing behavior."