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The correlation between central and peripheral oxytocin concentrations: a systematic review and meta-analysis

By Mathias Valstad, Gail A Alvares, Maiken Egknud, Anna Maria Matziorinis, Ole A Andreassen, Lars T. Westlye, Daniel S. Quintana

Posted 22 Dec 2016
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/096263 (published DOI: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2017.04.017)

There is growing interest in the role of the oxytocin system in social cognition and behavior. Peripheral oxytocin concentrations are regularly used to approximate central concentrations in psychiatric research. This methodological approach has obvious appeal given the invasiveness of cerebrospinal fluid collection. However, the validity of this approach and potential moderators of the association between central and peripheral levels are unclear. Thus, we conducted a pre-registered systematic search and meta-analysis of correlations between central and peripheral oxytocin concentrations. A search of databases yielded 17 eligible studies for effect size synthesis and moderator analysis, resulting in a total sample size of 516 participants and subjects. Overall, a positive association between central and peripheral oxytocin concentrations was revealed [r=0.29, 95% CI (0.15, 0.42), p<0.0001], along with a moderate-to-high level of heterogeneity across effect sizes [Q=88.14, p<0.0001], and no evidence of publication bias (p=0.45). This association was significantly moderated by experimental context [Qb(4), p=0.0016]. The strongest association was observed after intranasal oxytocin administration (r=0.67, p<.0001), a correlation that was significantly greater (p=.0002) than the equivalent association under baseline conditions (r=0.08, p=.31). These results support the use of peripheral levels of oxytocin as a marker of central levels, but only after exogenous oxytocin administration. Despite the popularity of using peripheral OT levels to approximate central levels during baseline conditions, this approach is not supported by the present results.

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