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Oxytocin modulates the effective connectivity between the precuneus and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex

  • Jyothika Kumar
  • Sarina J. Iwabuchi
  • Birgit A. Völlm
  • Lena PalaniyappanEmail author
Original Paper
  • 25 Downloads

Abstract

Our social activity is heavily influenced by the process of introspection, with emerging research suggesting a role for the Default Mode Network (DMN) in social cognition. We hypothesize that oxytocin, a neuropeptide with an important role in social behaviour, can effectively alter the connectivity of the DMN. We test this hypothesis using a randomized, double-blind, crossover, placebo-controlled trial where 15 healthy male participants received 24 IU oxytocin or placebo prior to a resting-state functional MRI scan. We used Granger Causality Analysis for the first time to probe the role of oxytocin on brain networks and found that oxytocin reverses the pattern of effective connectivity between the bilateral precuneus and the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC), a key central executive network (CEN) region. Under placebo, the bilateral precuneus exerted a significant negative causal influence on the left dlPFC and the left dlPFC exerted a significant positive causal influence on the bilateral precuneus. However, under oxytocin, these patterns were reversed, i.e. positive causal influence from the bilateral precuneus to the left dlPFC and negative causal influence from the left dlPFC to the bilateral precuneus (with statistically significant effects for the right precuneus). We propose that these oxytocin-induced effects could be a mechanistic process by which it modulates social cognition. These results provide a measurable target for the physiological effects of oxytocin in the brain and offer oxytocin as a potential agent to enhance the cooperative role of the predominantly ‘task-inactive’ ‘default mode’ brain regions in both healthy and patient populations.

Keywords

Oxytocin Resting fMRI Granger Causality Effective connectivity Default Mode Network 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This study was supported by an Early Career Research Knowledge and Transfer Award from the University of Nottingham to Prof Birgit Völlm. LP is supported by the Academic Medical Organization of Southwest Ontario (AMOSO) Opportunities Fund; Bucke Fund; Chrysalis Fund and the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR Foundation Grant). The funding bodies had no further role in study design; in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; and in the decision to submit the paper for publication. We would like to acknowledge the assistance provided by Drs. Mehri Kaviani and Elizabeth Liddle and Professor Peter Liddle in setting up this study and acquiring data.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Dr. Lena Palaniyappan is an employee of Western University, Ontario. He receives book royalties from Oxford University Press and income from the SPMM MRCPsych course. He has received travel support to speak at a meeting organized by Magstim Ltd. (UK); speaker and consultancy fees from Otsuka Canada, Janssen Canada, Canadian Psychiatric Association and Educational Grants from Janssen, Sunovion and Otsuka Canada. There are no other relevant conflicts of interest.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all participants and an inconvenience allowance was paid. This study received approval from the University of Nottingham Medical School Ethics Committee.

Supplementary material

406_2019_989_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (253 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 252 KB)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Psychiatry and Applied PsychologyUniversity of NottinghamNottinghamUK
  2. 2.Radiological Sciences, Division of Clinical NeuroscienceUniversity of NottinghamNottinghamUK
  3. 3.Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS TrustNottinghamUK
  4. 4.Department of Psychiatry and Robarts Research InstituteUniversity of Western Ontario & Lawson Health Research InstituteLondonCanada

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