Neuroendocrine Modulators of Social Behavior and Stress Responses in Couples
Couple relationships have a substantial impact on individual health and longevity and the stress-buffering mechanisms of social support between partners are hypothesized to mediate this effect. Indeed, relationship enhancement training reduced stress hormones during a conflict session in the laboratory, suggesting that couple interventions can improve health via reduced psychobiological stress. On a neurobiological level, these effects might be mediated through activity of the neuropeptide oxytocin. Oxytocin has been related to attachment behavior and stress reduction in animals and in humans. In line with this, previous data from our laboratory indicate that intranasal oxytocin modulates communication behavior and cortisol levels during couple conflict. However more recently, differential effects of oxytocin with regard to sex, social context, and individual relationship experiences have been proposed and mandate a more refined interpretation of the overall effects of this neuropeptide.
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