Date of Award

January 2016

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Medical Doctor (MD)



First Advisor

Helena J. Rutherford

Second Advisor

Linda C. Mayes


The hormone oxytocin (OT) has been implicated in social cognition and behavior as well as in modulating important affiliative relationships such as parenting; meanwhile, intranasal OT administration is gaining popularity as a means to modulate neural activity in brain regions during experimental tasks. However, the neural mechanisms underscoring the changes associated with OT administration have yet to be fully elucidated. Using electroencephalography (EEG), this thesis project aims to further our understanding of how OT affects brain activity and response to infant cues. In a double-blind placebo controlled design, OT’s effect on resting-state neural oscillations and event-related potentials (ERPs) to face stimuli were examined in a cohort of nulliparous women of childbearing age. Specifically, we examined the effects of intranasal OT on delta, beta, and delta-beta coupling during the resting state, and the amplitudes of the ERP components N170, P300, and the Late Positive Potential (LPP) to infant and adult faces. Prior work has suggested that cross-frequency coupling may be a useful way to study cognitive processing, whereas the N170, P300 and LPP are all components involved in the processing of facial and emotional stimuli. We found that OT, relative to placebo, decreased delta-beta coupling across multiple brain regions; ERP data showed that OT administration led to an increased amplitude of the P300 component to infant faces compared with adult faces. Taken together, these findings demonstrate that OT administration may lead nulliparous women to allocate greater attentional resources to infant faces than adult faces via a neural mechanism captured by delta-beta coupling.


This is an Open Access Thesis.

Open Access

This Article is Open Access