Infant laughter is a rewarding experience. It activates neural reward circuits and promotes parental proximity and care, thus facilitating parent-infant attachment. The neuropeptide oxytocin might enhance the incentive salience of infant laughter by modulating neural circuits related to the perception of infant cues. In a randomized controlled trial with functional magnetic resonance imaging we investigated the influence of intranasally administered oxytocin on functional brain connectivity in response to infant laughter. Blood oxygenation level-dependent responses to infant laughter were measured in 22 nulliparous women who were administered oxytocin and 20 nulliparous women who were administered a placebo. Elevated oxytocin levels reduced activation in the amygdala during infant laughter and enhanced functional connectivity between the amygdala and the orbitofrontal cortex, the anterior cingulate, the hippocampus, the precuneus, the supramarginal gyri, and the middle temporal gyrus. Increased functional connectivity between the amygdala and regions involved in emotion regulation may reduce negative emotional arousal while enhancing the incentive salience of the infant laughter.

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Keywords ACC, amygdala, functional brain connectivity, infant laughter, OFC, oxytocin
Persistent URL,
Series ERIM Top-Core Articles
Journal Neuropsychopharmacology
Riem, M.M.E, van IJzendoorn, M.H, Tops, M, Boksem, M.A.S, Rombouts, S.A.R.B, & Bakermans-Kranenburg, M.J. (2012). No laughing matter: Intranasal oxytocin administration changes functional brain connectivity during exposure to infant laughter. Neuropsychopharmacology, 37(5), 1257–1266. doi:10.1038/npp.2011.313