• Effects of intranasal oxytocin on compassion focused imagery.

      Rockliff, Helen; Karl, Anke; McEwan, Kirsten; Gilbert, Jean; Matos, Marcela; Gilbert, Paul; University of Bristol; University of Exeter; University of Derby; University of Coimbra (American Psychological Association, 2011-06-27)
      This study explored the effects of oxytocin on Compassion Focused Imagery (CFI), that is, imagining another “mind” being deeply compassionate to oneself, and the interaction of these effects with self-criticism and feeling socially safe with others. Forty-four healthy participants (29 men and 15 women) completed self-report measures of self-criticism, attachment style, and social safeness before taking part in a double-blind randomized placebo controlled study. They attended two imagery sessions, receiving oxytocin in one and a placebo in the other. Positive affect was measured before and after each imagery session, and “imagery experience” was assessed after each session. Overall, oxytocin increased the ease of imagining compassionate qualities but there were important individual differences in how CFI was experienced. Participants higher in self-criticism, lower in self-reassurance, social safeness, and attachment security had less positive experiences of CFI under oxytocin than placebo, indicating that the effects of oxytocin on affiliation may depend on attachment and self-evaluative styles.
    • A pilot exploration of heart rate variability and salivary cortisol responses to compassion-focused imagery.

      Rockliff, Helen; Gilbert, Paul; McEwan, Kirsten; Lightman, Stafford; Glover, David; University of Derby; Kingsway Hospital; University of Bristol; Manchester Royal Infirmary (Giovanni Fioriti Editore, 2008-06)
      This study measured heart-rate variability and cortisol to explore whether Compassion-Focused Imagery (CFI) could stimulate a soothing affect system. We also explored individual differences (self-reported self-criticism, attachment style and psychopathology) to CFI. Participants were given a relaxation, compassion-focused and control imagery task. While some individuals showed an increase in heart rate variability during CFI, others had a decrease. There was some indication that this was related to peoples self-reports of self-criticism, and attachment style. Those with an increase in heart rate variability also showed a significant cortisol decrease. Hence, CFI can stimulate a soothing affect system and attenuate hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity in some individuals but those who are more self-critical, with an insecure attachment style may require therapeutic interventions to benefit from CFI.