A study by Karen Parker and her research team from the Stanford University School of Medicine links low levels of oxytocin with anxiety in children.
Recent evidence indicates that oxytocin is an anxiolytic hormone, as it decreases the release of stress hormones, while oxytocin imbalances have been associated with both anxiety (HJ Lee et al., Prog Neurobiol, 2009, 88:127) and depression.
The Stanford study, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry demonstrates that both plasma and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) oxytocin concentrations significantly and negatively predict trait anxiety in children. The study also provides perhaps the first evidence in children that plasma oxytocin concentrations are a valid surrogate for CSF oxytocin concentrations.
These observations substantiate recent studies demonstrating an anxiolytic effect of intranasal oxytocin administration, which is combined with a reduction of stress-induced cortisol concentrations in both healthy subjects and individuals with anxiety symptoms.
According to the authors patient stratification as per plasma oxytocin levels may improve the assessment of the therapeutic potential, and the prediction of patients most likely to benefit from oxytocin treatment. The authors also suggest that patients with lower plasma oxytocin concentrations and higher levels of anxiety will benefit most from therapy with oxytocin.
Source: Mol Psychiatry, 2014 Nov 4. doi: 10.1038/mp.2014.132. [Epub ahead of print]