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Oxytocin Genes (OXTR) & SNPs: Are You High or Low in it?

Written by Joe Cohen, BS | Last updated:

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What Are Your Genes for Oxytocin?

The Most Significant Oxytocin Gene: rs53576

This is the main and most significant oxytocin receptor gene.   But there are a bunch of others that are significant as well.  I speak about this one more in depth if you scroll below because most research has been done on it.

This gene essentially makes you more sensitive to oxytocin.

GG is the social version and about 37% of the global population has this.  This makes you more optimistic and empathetic and allows you to handle stress well.

The GG version promotes the efficient functioning of the oxytocin system and enhances the effects of oxytocin supplementation [1].

The gene frequency varies by race:  ~61% of Africans have it (in Africa), ~41% of Europeans (~30% of Finns) and ~10% of Asians [2].

The Benefits of rs53576

Since this is the most important gene, I focus on this.

  • GG has a more positive ‘effect’ or disposition [3] AA and AG individuals were judged to be less pro-social and displayed fewer nonverbal cues — head nods and smiles — compared to GG people.  The study suggested that the association between and prosociality was stronger for men, but also true for women.
  • GG is more optimistic.
  • GG are more empathetic.
  • GG handle stress better.
  • GG is better at accurately reading the emotions of others by observing their faces compared to AA or AG.
  • GG is less likely to startle when blasted by a loud noise or to become stressed at the prospect of such a noise.
  • GG was mellower and more attuned to other people than the AA or AG were.
  • GG has a higher non-verbal IQ [3].
  • GG feel less lonely.
  • GG was less likely to seek support from their peers.
  • GG employ more sensitive parenting techniques.
  • GG have lower rates of autism.
  • GG have less difficulty hearing and understanding in noisy environments.
  • In response to an interview, GG or AG had significantly lower cortisol responses to stress when they had social support.  There were no differences in cortisol levels in subjects with the A; A genotype receiving or not receiving social support.  The A; A genotype tended to have higher levels of cortisol throughout the session than G carriers (no differences between the genotypes were observed at baseline).
  • GG have more gray matter volume in the hypothalamus and greater hypothalamus volume and more activation in the amygdala.
  • GG are less predisposed to major depression [4].

The Negatives of rs53576

GG takes social rejection worse than others. GG had higher blood pressure and cortisol levels following rejection, effects not apparent among A carriers [5].

GG was less empathetic to pain experienced by racial ‘out-group’ vs racial ‘in group’ members (Asians vs Whites). However, AA experienced more pleasure from pain to racial out-groups [6].

So GG cares less about other races or who we view as ‘other’ (including competitions), but AA experiences more schadenfreude, which is pleasure at out-group pain or downfall [6].

Other Oxytocin Genes

rs1042778

People with the G allele had higher oxytocin levels than T carriers (T=.37) [7].  

GG or GT are the social versions.  In a game that tested how generous people are,  TT gave on average 18.3 shekels to the ‘other’, while GG or GT gave on average 25 shekels to the other [8] About 14% of the global population has TT.

In romantic relationships,  the TT version was associated with less empathic concern to their partner’s distress, displayed lower social reciprocity in a support-giving interaction, and persisted less in attending to their partner’s communication and maintaining focus on providing support [7].  

rs237887

G is social allele [8], but as you’ll see the effects are mixed for this.

AG and AA (both 18.1) had the highest empathy in “perspective taking” (a tendency of placing yourself in the position of others) compared to GG (16.0) [9].

GG had the highest level of “personal distress” empathy (16.8) (subjective feelings when observing the anguish and pain endured by others) compared to AA (15.3) and AG (14.4) [9].

GG had highest “Fantasy” empathy (18.5) (the extent to which people can immerse themselves in the conditions of the fictitious characters’ feelings and actions) compared to both AA and AG (15.1).  Fantasy empathy probably is a factor in how much you like novels [9].

About 66% of the global population will have either GG or AG and about 34% of the global population has the AA version (less social).

journal.pone.0005535.g004 (1)

Source: [8]

rs13316193

CC or CT has been associated with empathy, whereas TT  (the risky version) has been linked to decreased expression of oxytocin receptors in the brain, depressive mood and greater risk for Autism [7].

~48% of the population will have CT,  ~36% will have TT and 16% will have CC (C=0.40)…

In romantic relationships,  the TT version was associated with less empathic concern to their partner’s distress, displayed lower social reciprocity in a support-giving interaction, and persisted less in attending to their partner’s communication and maintaining focus on providing support [7]  This was based on observed behavior rather than self-reports. This study was looking at a group of genes in total, so it’s best not to read into it too much.  

But based on a different study, total empathy wasn’t really different in most situations between groups. However, CT has the most empathy with females [9].

rs2268491

CT had the highest level of empathy (IRI=68.7), followed by TT (65.8) and then CC (60.7) [9].

The same was true for “cognitive empathy”, which is simply knowing how the other person feels and what they might be thinking. 59% of the population has CT, 32% have TT and 9% have CC [9].

rs2254298

AG is the most empathetic version (IRI=70.8), while GG and AA were equal in total empathy (~65.4).  In cognitive empathy (putting yourself in someone else’s situation), AG (35.9) was the highest followed by GG (34.2) and AA (32.8) [9].

The A allele has been related to lower risk for autism, depression and separation anxiety and with amygdala volume increase in both White and Asian populations [7]…..

In romantic relationships,  the GG version was associated with less empathic concern to their partner’s distress, displayed lower social reciprocity in a support-giving interaction, and persisted less in attending to their partner’s communication and maintaining focus on providing support [7].  This was based on observed behavior rather than self-reports.  This study was looking at a group of genes in total, so it’s best not to read into it too much.

About 64% of the global population has GG, which is the less social version and 36% have either AA or AG (A=0.20).

rs4686302

For males, CC is the most empathetic, especially with emotional empathy…. and CT the least.  For females, CT and TT are the most empathetic.  49.5% of the population has CC, 27% has CT and 24% has TT [9].

rs2268494

TT is the social version.  About 86% of the global population has TT…The A allele, which is not common(A=.07), was associated with risk for Autism, which suggests lower oxytocin or worse processing of it…

In romantic relationships,  the AA version was associated with less empathic concern to their partner’s distress, displayed lower social reciprocity in a support-giving interaction, and persisted less in attending to their partner’s communication and maintaining focus on providing support [7]  This was based on observed behavior rather than self-reports.

rs237897

This gene is significant only in males with regard to empathy/kindness (dictator game and social value orientation) [10].

It doesn’t specify which alleles, but the minor allele is A (.36), which most often is the “risk” allele.  So AA would probably indicate less empathy is males, but I don’t know.

Further Resources

I recommend using the SelfDecode app to help interpret your genes.

SelfDecode is a sister company of SelfHacked. The proceeds from your purchase of this product are reinvested into our research and development, in order to serve you better. Thank you for your support.

Click here to read more about oxytocin.

About the Author

Joe Cohen, BS

Joe Cohen won the genetic lottery of bad genes. As a kid, he suffered from inflammation, brain fog, fatigue, digestive problems, anxiety, depression, and other issues that were poorly understood in both conventional and alternative medicine.Frustrated by the lack of good information and tools, Joe decided to embark on a journey of self-experimentation and self-learning to improve his health--something that has since become known as “biohacking”. With thousands of experiments and pubmed articles under his belt, Joe founded SelfHacked, the resource that was missing when he needed it. SelfHacked now gets millions of monthly readers.Joe is a thriving entrepreneur, author and speaker. He is the CEO of SelfHacked, SelfDecode and LabTestAnalyzer.His mission is to help people gain access to the most up-to-date, unbiased, and science-based ways to optimize their health.
Joe has been studying health sciences for 17 years and has read over 30,000 PubMed articles. He's given consultations to over 1000 people who have sought his health advice. After completing the pre-med requirements at university, he founded SelfHacked because he wanted to make a big impact in improving global health. He's written hundreds of science posts, multiple books on improving health, and speaks at various health conferences. He's keen on building a brain-trust of top scientists who will improve the level of accuracy of health content on the web. He's also founded SelfDecode and LabTestAnalyzer, popular genetic and lab software tools to improve health.

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