The stress dampening effects of exogenous oxytocin in humans have been well documented. However, the relation between endogenous oxytocin and cortisol is poorly understood. We conducted a meta-analysis on the correlation between oxytocin and cortisol levels measured at baseline (k = 24, N = 739). The effect size for the baseline correlation statistic was small (Pearson r = 0.163, p = 0.008), with high heterogeneity (I2 = 67.88%). Moderation analysis revealed that studies where participants anticipated an experimental manipulation evidenced a greater positive correlation compared to those that did not (Pearson r = 0.318, p = 0.006). A supplementary analysis including additional studies indicated that oxytocin levels in unextracted samples were 60 times higher when using this questionable practice. The findings suggest that the interplay between oxytocin and cortisol is dynamic and sensitive to the anticipation of stress or novelty. Furthermore, extraction of oxytocin appears to be an essential methodological practice.

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Keywords Cortisol, Experimental Manipulation, Meta-Analysis, Oxytocin, Plasma, Stress
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Journal Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology
Brown, C.A. (Christopher A.), Cardoso, C. (Christopher), & Ellenbogen, M.A. (Mark A.). (2016). A meta-analytic review of the correlation between peripheral oxytocin and cortisol concentrations. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology (Vol. 43, pp. 19–27). doi:10.1016/j.yfrne.2016.11.001