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Salivary and plasmatic oxytocin are not reliable trait markers of the physiology of the oxytocin system in humans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Published11 Dec 2020


  • elife-62456-v1

    elife_62456_v1.pdf, 1.76 MB, application/pdf

    Uploaded date:17 Dec 2020

    Version:Final published version

    Licence:CC BY

King's Authors


Single measurements of salivary and plasmatic oxytocin are used as indicators of the physiology of the oxytocin system. However, questions remain about whether they are sufficiently stable to provide valid trait markers of the physiology of the oxytocin system, and whether salivary oxytocin can accurately index its plasmatic concentrations. Using radioimmunoassay, we measured baseline plasmatic and/or salivary oxytocin from two independent datasets. We also administered exogenous oxytocin intravenously and intranasally in a triple dummy, within-subject, placebo-controlled design and compared baseline levels and the effects of routes of administration. Our findings question the use of single measurements of baseline oxytocin concentrations in saliva and plasma as valid trait markers of the physiology of the oxytocin system in humans. Salivary oxytocin is a weak surrogate for plasmatic oxytocin. The increases in salivary oxytocin observed after intranasal oxytocin most likely reflect unabsorbed peptide and should not be used to predict treatment effects.

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