The study tested the hypothesis that variation in the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR rs53576) and self-report of rejection sensitivity are associated with adrenocortical reactivity to social stress. Participants (N=94; 36.17% male; Mage=20.18yrs; 62.8% Caucasian) completed a writing task on a salient problem in society, provided self-report via questionnaire of rejection sensitivity, and were then informed that a committee of peers would evaluate their written comments. Participants received either scripted praise or criticism as a way to induce social evaluative threat. Saliva was collected before and after the stress task and assayed for cortisol. Results revealed that cortisol levels increased in participants with moderate levels of social rejection sensitivity-inferred by rs53576 genotype and reported rejection sensitivity-while cortisol levels decreased in participants with high and low levels of social rejection sensitivity. Our findings suggest a curvilinear relationship between social rejection sensitivity and cortisol reactivity in the context of social rejection, warranting further consideration in future studies.
Auer, B. J., et al. (2015). Common oxytocin receptor gene variant interacts with rejection sensitivity to influence cortisol reactivity during negative evaluation. Horm Behav. 51(9):1271-7.