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Epigenetic Modification of OXTR is Associated with Openness to Experience

  • Brian W. Haas (a1), Alicia K. Smith (a2) (a3) and Shota Nishitani (a2) (a3)

Oxytocin is a neuropeptide known to influence social and cognitive processing across several mammalian species. There currently exists a mixed and controversial pattern of evidence that oxytocin pathway genes confer individual differences in social cognition and personality in humans. Inconsistencies across studies may in part be explained by the presence of intermediary, epigenetic, variables that exist between genotype and phenotype. This study was designed to investigate the association between epigenetic modification of the Oxytocin Receptor Gene (OXTR), via DNA methylation, and Big-5 personality traits. Genetic data were collected via saliva samples and analyzed to quantify DNA methylation within the promoter region of OXTR. The results indicate that Openness to Experience is associated with OXTR DNA methylation, while controlling for the remaining Big-5 personality dimensions (Neuroticism, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness) and sex and age. This finding provides additional support for models associating oxytocin with individual differences in personality and identity in humans.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives licence (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is unaltered and is properly cited. The written permission of Cambridge University Press must be obtained for commercial re-use or in order to create a derivative work.
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*Author for correspondence: Brian W. Haas, E-mail:
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Cite this article: Haas BW, Smith AK, Nishitani S. (2018) Epigenetic Modification of OXTR is Associated with Openness to Experience. Personality Neuroscience. Vol 1: e7, 1–5. doi:10.1017/pen.2018.7

Inaugural Invited Paper

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