Adolescent oxytocin response to stress and its behavioral and endocrine correlates

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Anka Bernhard, Cindy van der Merwe, Katharina Ackermann, Anne Martinelli, Inga D. Neumann, Christine M. Freitag
Hormones and Behavior
, , , ,

Oxytocin (OXT) shows anxiolytic and stress-reducing effects, but salivary OXT response to laboratory-induced stress has only been assessed in one study in healthy adults. The present study aimed at extending these findings by assessing salivary OXT stress reactivity in healthy adolescents (aged 11–18) compared to a control condition. A higher salivary OXT response to stress compared to the control condition was expected. In addition, the association between OXT, cortisol (CORT) and psychological reactivity patterns was explored. Psychosocial stress was induced using the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST; 13 males, 15 females), while the Control-TSST (14 males, 15 females) served as a non-stress control condition. Salivary OXT increased in response to the TSST with a peak at +1 and decline at +10 min after stress. Baseline OXT correlated negatively with experienced anxiety and insecurity, while both correlated positively with OXT reactivity. OXT and CORT increase as well as OXT increase and CORT recovery were positively correlated. Results indicate that salivary OXT in response to the TSST is a valid method to assess biological effects of laboratory-induced stress also in adolescents. Due to a rapid increase and decline, salivary OXT needs to be assessed directly after stress exposure. Given the interplay of OXT with affective symptoms and CORT response, the combined measure of salivary OXT and CORT reactivity adds to studying stress reactivity in typically developing and clinical samples.


Back to Resources