Peripheral oxytocin and vasopressin: Biomarkers of psychiatric disorders? A comprehensive systematic review and preliminary meta-analysis

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A large array of studies have investigated peripheral oxytocin (OT) and vasopressin (ADH) as potential biomarkers of psychiatric disorders, with highly conflicting and heterogenous findings. We searched Web of KnowledgeSM and Scopuss for English original articles investigating OT and/or ADH levels in different biological fluids (plasma/serum, saliva, urine and cerebrospinal fluid) across several psychiatric disorders. Sixty-four studies were included. We conducted 19 preliminary meta-analyses addressing OT alterations in plasma/serum, saliva, urine and cerebrospinal fluid of 7 psychiatric disorders and ADH alterations in plasma/serum, saliva, urine and cerebrospinal fluid of 6 psychiatric disorders compared to controls. Hedge's g was used as effect size measure, together with heterogeneity analyses, test of publication biases and quality control. None of them (except serum OT in anorexia nervosa) revealed significant differences. There is no convincing evidence that peripheral ADH or OT might be reliable biomarkers in psychiatric disorders. However, the lack of significant results was associated with high methodological heterogeneity, low quality of the studies, small sample size, and scarce reliability of the methods used in previous studies, which need to be validated and standardized.

© 2016 The Author(s). This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207-220
Number of pages14
JournalPsychiatry Research
Early online date5 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jul 2016

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