A common polymorphism on the oxytocin receptor gene (rs2268498) and resting-state functional connectivity of amygdala subregions - A genetic imaging study

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Across species, the neuropeptide oxytocin has been associated with affiliative and social approach behavior. It has been suggested to exert its effects by modulating neural circuitry underlying anxiety, affiliative motivation, and social salience. The present study aims to investigate differences in subregional amygdala resting-state connectivity in healthy adult carriers of different genotypes of the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene polymorphism rs2268498. Previous studies have associated this polymorphic locus with social cognitive and affiliative phenotypes. The amygdala qualifies as a reasonable target due to its broad implication in emotional and social cognitive processing as well as its key role in mediating the behavioral effects of oxytocin. Whole brain seed-based functional connectivity analyses for the basolateral, centromedial and superficial amygdala revealed stronger resting-state connectivity of all amygdala subregions to the fusiform and inferior occipital gyrus in TT-carriers compared to C-allele carriers. Additional modulations were found for the centromedial amygdala which showed stronger resting-state connectivity to inferior frontal regions and the insula in C-allele carriers and to brainstem regions in TT-carriers. Our findings not only show the importance of oxytocin functioning in amygdalar neuronal signaling but also emphasize the need to investigate the amygdalar subregions individually instead of the amygdala as a whole. In summary, the present study is the first to characterize the impact of genetic variation of the OXTR gene with known functional consequences on widespread changes in a functional brain network originating from the amygdala.HighlightsWe present a genetic imaging study on the oxytocin system.Variation on the oxytocin receptor gene modulates amygdala functional connectivity.OXTR rs2268498 is a polymorphism which is known to affect receptor expression.Connectivity of amygdala subregions is differentially modulated by genotype.Target areas include face processing areas, the salience network, and the brain stem.

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