Publication Date



Open access

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Psychology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Philip McCabe - Committee Chair

Second Committee Member

Julia Zaias - Committee Member

Third Committee Member

Edward Green - Committee Member

Fourth Committee Member

Neil Schneiderman - Committee Member

Fifth Committee Member

Armando Mendez - Outside Committee Member


Social support has been demonstrated to reduce cardiovascular disease morbidity and mortality; however, the mechanisms by which social support reduces disease progression are still unclear. Oxytocin (OT) is a neuropeptide commonly associated with positive social interactions. This series of studies investigated the ability of oxytocin to attenuate atherosclerosis and its putative mediators, pro-inflammatory cytokines. Oxytocin receptors were identified by Western Blot on rat adipose tissue and rat adipocytes. OT receptor mRNA was identified in human adipocyte cDNA. In primary culture of rat abdominal adipocytes, oxytocin (10 pM) decreased LPS-induced IL-6 release by 24.9% after a six hour incubation. Adipose tissue, surgically dissected from ApoE-/- mice chronically infused with OT, secreted less IL-6 than mice infused with a vehicle control. In sum, the presence of OT receptors was demonstrated on adipocytes, OT was shown to reduce IL-6 release in vitro, and chronic OT infusion decreased IL-6 release in adipose explants immediately after sacrifice. Potential mechanisms by which adipose tissue's role in the sympathetic nervous system response may affect inflammation, metabolism, and disease are discussed.


Social Support; Oxytocin; Adipocyte