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Franka S. Schaebs, Gwen Wirobski, Sarah Marshall-Pescini, Friederike Range, and Tobias Deschner

Within the last decade, oxytocin (OT) has attracted a lot of attention in the context of various human social behaviors. Besides its importance in regulating physiological processes in females related to giving birth and lactation, OT is involved in the establishment and maintenance of social relationships, trust and emotion recognition. However, results are not always consistent across studies, which may partly be due to the incomplete validation of methods used to assess OT levels. Carefully validating a method before its use is of crucial importance to ensure that it can be used to accurately, reliably and repeatedly assess OT levels. With this study we evaluated a commercially available Enzyme Immunoassay to assess OT in human urine samples by conducting a careful analytical validation. Results indicate that, with regard to parallelism and immunoreactivity, human urinary OT can be assessed reliably. However, extraction methods need further improvement to optimize measures of accuracy and extraction efficiency, especially in the lower range of the assay system. Tests on OT stability indicate that OT is affected by degradation when stored at 4°C or room temperature. Storing urine samples over longer periods revealed that OT levels are most stable when stored as ethanol extracts at -20°C compared to being stored as samples at -20°C or -80°C. Although some of the validated parameters did not reach the intended quality criteria, this study highlights the importance of such in depth validation procedures and reporting results to make them available to researchers embarking on projects utilizing such methods.