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A large body of empirical research has demonstrated stress-buffering effects of social support. However, recent studies suggest that genetic variation of the oxytocin system (specifically, a common single nucleotide polymorphism, rs53576, of the oxytocin receptor gene) modulates the efficacy of social support. The timing and neurobiological basis of this genetic modulation were investigated using a standardized, laboratory-based psychological stress procedure (Trier Social Stress Test for Groups, TSST-G). To index potential stress buffering effects of social support mediated by the oxytocin system, heart rate variability (HRV) was obtained before and during the TSST-G from 40 healthy participants. Results indicate that social support is associated with higher HRV only in G allele carriers. Specifically, social support increased heart rate variability during direct social interaction and only in individuals with at least one copy of the G allele of rs53576. These findings support the idea that the stress-attenuating effects of social support are modulated by genetic variation of the oxytocin system.

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