Oxytocin Modulation of Startle Reactivity to Social Stimuli and Moral Decision Making

Overview

The purpose of this study is to determine whether oxytocin affects the modulation of startle reactivity by aversive social stimuli and to investigate the oxytocin effect on moral judgements. Furthermore the investigators explore the effects of oxytocin receptor (OXTR) polymorphisms on behavioral responses to social stimuli.

Full Title of Study: “Double-blind, Placebo-controlled, Randomized Study: Oxytocin Modulation of Startle Reactivity to Social Stimuli and Moral Decision Making”

Study Type

  • Study Type: Interventional
  • Study Design
    • Allocation: Randomized
    • Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
    • Primary Purpose: Basic Science
    • Masking: Triple (Participant, Investigator, Outcomes Assessor)
  • Study Primary Completion Date: May 2012

Detailed Description

The neuropeptide oxytocin (OXT) can enhance the impact of positive social cues but may reduce that of negative ones, although it is unclear whether the latter causes blunted emotional responses. After OXT or placebo application participants are exposed to acoustic startle probes presented alone and during viewing of 60 color pictures mostly selected from the 'International Affective Picture System'. The paradigm featured 20 negative (mostly threatening), 20 neutral, and 20 positive pictures, presented for 5 s each. In the other part of the experiment, after intranasal OXT or placebo application participants respond to 60 moral dilemmas.

Interventions

  • Drug: Oxytocin
    • Oxytocin: 24 IU; 3 puffs per nostril, each with 4 IU OXT

Arms, Groups and Cohorts

  • Experimental: Oxytocin
    • 24 IU Oxytocin, intranasal application 45 min prior to the experiment
  • Placebo Comparator: Placebo
    • intranasal application, sodium chloride solution, 3 puffs per nostril

Clinical Trial Outcome Measures

Primary Measures

  • baseline startle magnitude and affective modulation of the startle magnitude after oxytocin and placebo administration
    • Time Frame: 24 Months
    • The experimental tasks started 45 min after intranasal OXT/PLC administration. The STARTLE-paradigm features 20 negative (mostly threatening), 20 neutral, and 20 positive pictures, presented for 5 s each. The startle stimulus consists of a single 50-ms burst of white noise (100 dB) with nearly instantaneous rise and was delivered binaurally via headphones during 60% of the pictures (i.e. 12 from each category) at 2 – 4 s after picture onset. We examined the baseline startle magnitude as well as the affective modulation of the startle magnitude.

Secondary Measures

  • moral decision making after oxytocin and placebo administration
    • Time Frame: 24 months
    • The experimental tasks started 45 min after OXT/PLC administration. The moral dilemmas performed in the present study were identical to those published previously by Greene et al.(2001).
  • oxytocin receptor (OXTR) polymorphism and correlation with social behavior
    • Time Frame: 24 months
    • OXTR genotyping, social behavior testing

Participating in This Clinical Trial

Inclusion Criteria

  • Healthy male volunteers

Exclusion Criteria

  • Current or past psychiatric disease
  • Current or past physical illness
  • Psychoactive medication
  • Tobacco smokers

Gender Eligibility: Male

Minimum Age: 18 Years

Maximum Age: 60 Years

Are Healthy Volunteers Accepted: Accepts Healthy Volunteers

Investigator Details

  • Lead Sponsor
    • University Hospital, Bonn
  • Provider of Information About this Clinical Study
    • Principal Investigator: Rene Hurlemann, MSc MD PhD – University Hospital, Bonn
  • Overall Official(s)
    • Rene Hurlemann, MSc MD PhD, Principal Investigator, Department of Psychiatry, University of Bonn, Germany

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