Graduation Year


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis


W.M. Keck Science Department

Second Department


Reader 1

Jorge Barraza

Reader 2

Melissa Coleman

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© 2014 Amelia Mainardi


A large emphasis has been placed on determining the relationship between neurobiological state and social experience within the field of psychophysiology. Many of these studies have focused on the use of high frequency heart rate variability as a measure of parasympathetic control of autonomic function. Past studies have shown that administered oxytocin is a known effector of heart rate variability and neurobiological state and emphasized its potential to increase heart rate variability and the capacity for social engagement. This effect has been proposed in part to be the result of an interaction of the myelinated vagus with oxytocin. A similar relationship between increased levels of plasma oxytocin corresponding with increased high frequency heart rate variability was expected. This relationship expected to appear strongest in populations with highest levels of oxytocin or better heart health status, specifically in females as compared to males and in the younger population as compared to older. In a comparison of plasma oxytocin with heart rate variability values, plasma oxytocin level was found not to serve as a valid predictor variable. Additional comparisons using stress hormone levels suggest this lack of relationship is not attributable to sympathetic repression of parasympathetic control.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.