Wearing the Inside Out: The Effects of Exogenous Oxytocin, Reading, and Stress on the Expression of Empathy for Victims of Trauma

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Considerable psycho-physiological research on empathy examines biological structures such as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA-axis) and oxytocin systems as efficacious methods for strengthening positive emotional responses. This study recruited 76 adult participants (54 female, 23 male) for the purpose of evaluating the effects oxytocin and fiction reading have on empathetic responses. Participants completed a measure of trauma and received either intranasal oxytocin, a story created to induce emotional responses, or a neutral non-fiction story. Stressors were counterbalanced as a family or non-family stimuli to assess changes in stress response measured by salivary cortisol and heart rate variability. Results supported existing research ... continued below

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Seddio, Kaylee Rae December 2017.

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  • Seddio, Kaylee Rae

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Description

Considerable psycho-physiological research on empathy examines biological structures such as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA-axis) and oxytocin systems as efficacious methods for strengthening positive emotional responses. This study recruited 76 adult participants (54 female, 23 male) for the purpose of evaluating the effects oxytocin and fiction reading have on empathetic responses. Participants completed a measure of trauma and received either intranasal oxytocin, a story created to induce emotional responses, or a neutral non-fiction story. Stressors were counterbalanced as a family or non-family stimuli to assess changes in stress response measured by salivary cortisol and heart rate variability. Results supported existing research stating that heart rate variability (HRV) is a more sensitive measure of stress. HRV statistically significantly interacted between type of stressor and PTSD symptomology (1, 70) = 5.018, p = .028, η2 =0.06. Scores on the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) indicated there were increases in empathy across time, but were not impacted by exposure to stress or treatment condition. Trauma was identified as a statistically significant factor on heart rate variability F(1, 70) = 8.39, p = .005, η2 = .10. Treatment condition did not impact cortisol levels across time F(2, 71) = .2.532, p = .087, η2 = .11. Taken together, these results suggest support for the use of biomarkers in measuring the rate of stress and recovery for those with and without trauma. These findings suggest potential avenues for translational research and implications for theory and practice.

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  • December 2017

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  • Jan. 27, 2018, 7:36 a.m.

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Seddio, Kaylee Rae. Wearing the Inside Out: The Effects of Exogenous Oxytocin, Reading, and Stress on the Expression of Empathy for Victims of Trauma, dissertation, December 2017; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1062872/: accessed April 22, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .