Preconference workshop

Professor Stephen W. Porges and

Professor C. Sue Carter

How the Vagus and Oxytocin Evolved to Form the Neurophysiological Basis

of Humanity: 

A Marriage of Love and Trust

Through the lens of evolution, sociality emerged in mammals as a product of modifications of ancient foundational neurobiological survival circuits. This process required modifying circuits initially dedicated for defense and enable two sequential biobehavioral steps to enable trust, the basis of sociality, to occur:

1) detection of cues of safety in other,

2) down regulation of threat reactions.

This talk will discuss how twointerdependent neurobiological systems (i.e., vagal and oxytocin) have evolved to synergistically support sociality and homeostatic functions (health, growth, and restoration). 

1. Participants will learn how the Polyvagal Theory can demystify several clinical symptoms related to psychiatric diagnoses (e.g.,PTSD, autism, depression, and anxiety disorders).

2. Participants will learn how deficits in the regulation of the Social Engagement System relate to the core features of several behavioral and psychiatric disorders.

3. Participants will learn about a neural process (neuroception) that evaluates risk in the environment and reflexively triggers adaptive neural circuits that promote either social interactions or defensive behaviors.

4. Participants will gain an understanding of how oxytocin is involved in regulating stress and enhancing health.

5. Participants will gain an understanding of how oxytocin mediates the impact of social support, social bonds, and trusting relationships on physical and mental health

6. Participants will gain an understanding of how oxytocin and vasopressin act as “neuromodulators” within the theoretical context of the Polyvagal Theory.