Naltrexone Alters Responses to Social and Physical Warmth: Implications for Social Bonding

Tristen K. Inagaki; Laura I. Hazlett; Carmen Andreescu

Disclosures

Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2019;14(5):471-479. 

In This Article

The Current Study

One way to examine the causal contribution of opioids to social bonding is to pharmacologically manipulate opioids. Therefore, the current study used a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled design with the opioid antagonist, oral naltrexone, to test the following primary aims: (i) the effect of naltrexone on feelings of social connection and VS and MI activity to a socially warm experience; (ii) the effect of naltrexone on the same outcomes to a physically warm experience; and (iii) the effect of naltrexone on the neural overlap between social and physical warmth. Based on the existing animal and human research on the contribution of opioids to both experiences of social connection and physical warmth, naltrexone (vs placebo) was hypothesized to reduce feelings of social connection and VS and MI activity to social warmth and physical warmth. Further, naltrexone was hypothesized to disrupt the neural overlap between social and physical warmth.

Inherent in the perspective outlined above is that opioids and physical warmth are particularly relevant for social bonding that occurs with close others. That is, opioids likely contribute to the experience of connecting with friends, family and other people one feels particularly close to. Similarly, warmth may signal the proximity of close others, such as a responsive caregiver or loved one, whereas cold may signal the absence of close others. Therefore, a final aim of the current study was to assess naltrexone's effect on responses to both close others and strangers and, separately, warm and cool stimuli. Naltrexone was not expected to affect responses to strangers or cool stimuli.

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