Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Genetics and Sociality

Researchers show in the journal “PNAS” how friends can relieve stress

Social support from family and friends is one of the most powerful protective factors against stress-related diseases - from heart attacks to depression. Prof. Markus Heinrichs, Professor of Biological Psychology at the University of Freiburg, demonstrated in 2003 for the first time in humans that the neurohormone oxytocin plays a central role in both the control of stress and the stress-reducing effect of social support. He has also shown in a series of studies that oxytocin administered as a nasal spray increases trust and empathy for others and therefore has therapeutic potential for a range of mental disorders.

But could the oxytocin system also help explain why support from close friends and family has very different effects on individuals?

In the current issue of the prestigious scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the Freiburg psychologists and neuroscientists Prof. Markus Heinrichs, Dr. Frances S. Chen, Dr. Robert Kumsta, and Dr. Bernadette von Dawans, together with the researchers Prof. Richard P. Ebstein and Dr. Mikhail Monakhov of the National University of Singapore, examined for the first time genetic modulation of social support’s effectiveness during stress through variants of the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR). The hormonal and subjective stress responses of 200 adults to a standardized social stress test were studied; half of the sample was asked to bring a close friend for support. “The presence of a friend during preparation for the test reduced stress in most people; interestingly, however, the group of people carrying a particular variant of the oxytocin receptor gene did not benefit from the support" said Frances S. Chen. For Markus Heinrichs, these results have far-reaching consequences for current research on new therapeutic approaches: "The ‘psychobiological therapy' we are currently developing involves a completely new combination of oxytocin and psychotherapy for mental disorders involving social deficits – here, it is of great relevance to understand how ‘sensitive’ this system is in different patients.”

Original Publication:
Chen, F.S.*, Kumsta, R.*, von Dawans, B., Monakhov, M., Ebstein, R.P. & Heinrichs, M. (2011). Common oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) polymorphism and social support interact to reduce stress in humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), in press. (* shared first authorship)

Prof. Dr. Markus Heinrichs
Department of Psychology
University of Freiburg
Phone: 0049-761-203-3029
Fax: 0049-761-203-3023

Prof. Dr. Markus Heinrichs | University of Freiburg
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Rutgers-led innovation could spur faster, cheaper, nano-based manufacturing
14.02.2018 | Rutgers University

nachricht New study from the University of Halle: How climate change alters plant growth
12.01.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth

23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm

23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>