Oxytocin and vasopressin modulate risk-taking

Nilam Patel, Christian Grillon, Nevia Pavletic, Dana Rosen, Daniel S. Pine, Monique Ernst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The modulation of risk-taking is critical for adaptive and optimal behavior. This study examined how oxytocin (OT) and arginine vasopressin (AVP) influence risk-taking in function of three parameters: sex, risk-valence, and social context. Twenty-nine healthy adults (14 males) completed a risk-taking task, the Stunt task, both in a social-stress (evaluation by unfamiliar peers) and non-social context, in three separate drug treatment sessions. During each session, one of three drugs, OT, AVP, or placebo (PLC), was administered intra-nasally. OT and AVP relative to PLC reduced betting-rate (risk-averse effect). This risk-averse effect was further qualified: AVP reduced risk-taking in the positive risk-valence (high win-probability), and regardless of social context or sex. In contrast, OT reduced risk-taking in the negative risk-valence (low win-probability), and only in the social-stress context and men. The reduction in risk-taking might serve a role in defensive behavior. These findings extend the role of these neuromodulators to behaviors beyond the social realm. How the behavioral modulation of risk-taking maps onto the function of the neural targets of OT and AVP may be the next step in this line of research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)254-260
Number of pages7
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
StatePublished - Feb 1 2015


  • Motivated behavior
  • Neuropeptides
  • Risk-valence
  • Sex
  • Social stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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