Genetic regulation of maternal oxytocin response and its influences on maternal behavior

Divya Mehta*, Valsamma Eapen, Jane Kohlhoff, Antonio Mendoza Diaz, Bryanne Barnett, Derrick Silove, Mark R. Dadds

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)


We interrogated the genetic modulation of maternal oxytocin response and its association with maternal behavior using genetic risk scores within the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene. We identified a novel SNP, rs968389, to be significantly associated with maternal oxytocin response after a challenging mother-infant interaction task (Still Face Paradigm) and maternal separation anxiety from the infant. Performing a multiallelic analysis across OXTR by calculating a cumulative genetic risk score revealed a significant gene-by-environment (G × E) interaction, with OXTR genetic risk score interacting with adult separation anxiety to modulate levels of maternal sensitivity. Mothers with higher OXTR genetic risk score and adult separation anxiety showed significantly reduced levels of maternal sensitivity during free play with the infant. The same G × E interaction was also observed for the extended OXTR cumulative genetic risk score that included rs968389. Moreover, the extended cumulative OXTR genetic risk score itself was found to be significantly associated with maternal separation anxiety as it specifically relates to the infant. Our results suggest a complex montage of individual and synergistic genetic mediators of maternal behavior. These findings add to specific knowledge about genetic regulation of maternal oxytocin response in relation to maternal adjustment and infant bonding through the first few months of life.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5740365
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalNeural Plasticity
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2016. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


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