Preventing PTSD with oxytocin: effects of oxytocin administration on fear neurocircuitry and PTSD symptom development in recently trauma-exposed individuals
- Jessie L. Frijling
- European journal of psychotraumatology
The neuropeptide oxytocin (OT) has been suggested as a promising pharmacological agent for medication-enhanced psychotherapy in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) because of its anxiolytic and prosocial properties. We therefore investigated the behavioral and neurobiological effects of a single intranasal OT administration (40 IU) in PTSD patients. We conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled, cross-over resting-state fMRI study in male and female police officers with (n=37, 21 males) and without PTSD (n=40, 20 males). We investigated OT administration effects on subjective anxiety and functional connectivity of basolateral (BLA) and centromedial (CeM) amygdala subregions with prefrontal and salience processing areas. In PTSD patients, OT administration resulted in decreased subjective anxiety and nervousness. Under placebo, male PTSD patients showed diminished right CeM to left ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) connectivity compared with male trauma-exposed controls, which was reinstated after OT administration. Additionally, female PTSD patients showed enhanced right BLA to bilateral dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) connectivity compared with female trauma-exposed controls, which was dampened after OT administration. Although caution is warranted, our findings tentatively suggest that OT has the potential to diminish anxiety and fear expression of the amygdala in PTSD, either via increased control of the vmPFC over the CeM (males) or via decreased salience processing of the dACC and BLA (females). Our findings add to accumulating evidence that OT administration could potentially enhance treatment response in PTSD.