Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Embodied Decision Making: The Unique and Interactive Effects of Oxytocin as an Analgesic
by Long, Preston Alexander, Ph.D., University of South Dakota, 2020, 168; 28022253
Abstract (Summary)

Background: Oxytocin (OT) is a naturally occurring hormone produce by the hypothalamus. While a growing body of work has focused on the role of OT in modulating human social cognition, a somewhat neglected but promising area of study is how OT effects pain perception and pain behavior. Animal Studies consistently support OT as an analgesic but human studies are few and somewhat mixed. Inconsistencies appear to be an artifact of contextual and individual factors. The current study explores whether the analgesic effect of OT diminishes maladaptive decision making associated with pain, both directly and indirectly. Simultaneously, positive social behaviors such as trust and cooperation, may be heightened under the influence of oxytocin and moderate the relationship between OT and pain. Intranasal OT (24 IU) versus placebo trials were separated by a one-week washout period. Pain was distributed using a cold-pressor. Attitudinal trust, behavioral trust, psychological safety, and cooperation social cognitive indicators were measured. Behavioral rating scales examined delayed discounting, impulsivity, and loss aversion. In addition to behavioral measures, urine samples were collected to assess subject OT saturation and saliva samples were collected to test for genetic markers associated with pain, executive functioning, and trust. We first examined if OT has a main effect (i.e., generalized) on pain perception and secondly, if pain-related behavior is moderated or mediated by OT. Results: Upon termination of the study 43 USD undergraduate students successfully completed both conditions (65% female). OT was shown to have a significant interaction effect with pain and procedural order F(1,40) = 5.845, p = .020. Significant main effects were also found on social cognition and decision-making variables. Conclusions: The most pronounced effect was seen in the distinct shift from first to second exposure. This reversal in pain perception appears to be adaptive as seen in the decision making variables. This makes OT an excellent candidate for alternative or complementary pain treatment. OT may increase patient trust and cooperation with staff, as well as reduce pain sensitivity under certain circumstances.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Wang, X. T.
Commitee: Freeman, Harry, Baugh, Lee, Lowmaster, Sara, Peterson, Doug
School: University of South Dakota
Department: Psychology (Human Factors)
School Location: United States -- South Dakota
Source: DAI-B 82/3(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Physiological psychology, Health sciences, Pharmacology
Keywords: Analgesic, Decision making, Embodied cognition, Oxytocin, Pain, Trust
Publication Number: 28022253
ISBN: 9798672185163
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