Oxytocin-augmented Cognitive-behavioral Group-based Short-term Intervention for Loneliness

2019-10-29 14:36:51 | BioPortfolio


The purpose of this study is to evaluate the clinical potential of oxytocin (OT) as an adjunct to a cognitive-behavioral group-based shortterm intervention for participants suffering from loneliness.


Loneliness has a high prevalence in Western societies and poses a significant health problem. Among its many implications, loneliness has been associated with increased risk for coronary heart disease and stroke, depression, cognitive decline, dementia, and mortality. At the neural level, several networks may be involved in loneliness, including the reward circuitry, which mediates social reward, and the amygdala, which signals social threat. Intranasal OT has been reported to regulate activity in both the reward system and the amygdala. Therefore, it may serve as an adjunct to a cognitive-behavioral short-term intervention for high lonely participants.

In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled design study, effects of intranasal OT (24 international units (UI)) as a pharmacological augmentation given before the start of four sessions of a cognitive-behavioral short-term intervention in groups of six to eight participants (based on established interpersonal psychotherapy modules to reduce loneliness) will be investigated. Healthy, but high lonely participants will complete functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) tasks in a separate testing session before the start of the intervention (testing session 1). In the first session of the intervention, the psychotherapist will inform the participants about the procedure of the intervention and participants will get to know the other participants in their intervention group (testing session 2). In the next four sessions (testing sessions 3-6), participants will receive 24 IU of intranasal OT 30 minutes before the start of the intervention. Sessions of the intervention will be conducted weekly. After completion of the intervention, participants will again undergo fMRI scanning (testing session 7). Three weeks and three months after completion of the intervention, follow-up measurements of the experienced loneliness and subjective well-being will be collected.

All fMRI testing sessions (1 and 7) will include following tasks:

1. Blood-oxygen-level dependent (BOLD) signal will be measured while participants play a single-round trust game in the role of an investor. Participants will have to decide the amount of money they want to invest in an unknown trustee without receiving feedback about the decisions of the trustees. If the participant chooses to invest, that amount will be tripled and added to the trustee's account. The trustee may keep all of the money for him/herself or share the money with the investor. Participants will be informed of the collection of the trustee's decisions in a previous study for all possible investments. Furthermore, participants will view an image of a randomly chosen trustee from the previous study during the MRI session. In a control condition, participants will play a risk game and invest money in a computer (which will randomly decide whether the money will be shared).

2. BOLD signal will be assessed while participants undergo a social touch task. Trials will include slow (~ 5 cm/s) and fast touch (~ 20 cm/s) across 20 cm of the shins as well as a control condition (no touch). The touch will be administered by an experimenter that cannot be seen by the participants. After each trial, participants will be asked to rate the perceived comfort of the stimulation.

Study Design




Oxytocin nasal spray, Placebo


Department of Psychiatry, University of Bonn


Enrolling by invitation


University Hospital, Bonn

Results (where available)

View Results


Published on BioPortfolio: 2019-10-29T14:36:51-0400

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Medical and Biotech [MESH] Definitions

Cell surface proteins that bind oxytocin with high affinity and trigger intracellular changes which influence the behavior of cells. Oxytocin receptors in the uterus and the mammary glands mediate the hormone's stimulation of contraction and milk ejection. The presence of oxytocin and oxytocin receptors in neurons of the brain probably reflects an additional role as a neurotransmitter.

Agents delivered into the nostrils in the form of a mist or spray.

A compound formed when iodoacetic acid reacts with sulfhydryl groups in proteins. It has been used as an anti-infective nasal spray with mucolytic and expectorant action.

Fluid obtained by irrigation or washout of the nasal cavity and NASAL MUCOSA. The resulting fluid is used in cytologic and immunologic assays of the nasal mucosa such as with the NASAL PROVOCATION TEST in the diagnosis of nasal hypersensitivity.

The proximal portion of the respiratory passages on either side of the NASAL SEPTUM. Nasal cavities, extending from the nares to the NASOPHARYNX, are lined with ciliated NASAL MUCOSA.

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