Intranasal administration of oxytocin modulates behavioral and amygdala responses to infant crying in females with insecure attachment representations

Madelon M.E. Riem, Marian J. Bakermans-Kranenburg*, Marinus H. van IJzendoorn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


ABSTRACT: The current study examined the effects of oxytocin administration on the response to infant crying in individuals with secure or insecure attachment representations as assessed with the Adult Attachment Interview. We measured feelings of irritation and the use of excessive force as indicated by grip strength using a handgrip dynamometer during exposure to infant crying in 42 women without children who were administered intranasal oxytocin or a placebo. In addition, amygdala responses to infant crying and control sounds were measured with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The effects of oxytocin on reactivity to crying were moderated by attachment security. Oxytocin decreased the use of excessive handgrip force and amygdala reactivity in response to crying in individuals with insecure attachment representations. Our findings indicate that insecure individuals, who show emotional, behavioral, and neural hyperreactivity to crying, benefit the most from intranasal oxytocin.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-234
Number of pages22
JournalAttachment and Human Development
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 May 2016
Externally publishedYes



  • AAI
  • adult attachment
  • amygdala
  • fMRI
  • infant crying
  • Oxytocin

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