A critical review of the influence of oxytocin nasal spray on social cognition in humans: Evidence and future directions

Brain & Mind Research Institute, University of Sydney, 2050, Australia.
Hormones and Behavior (Impact Factor: 4.51). 01/2012; 61(3):410-8. DOI: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2012.01.002
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The past eight years of research has demonstrated that oxytocin nasal spray has a significant impact on human social cognition. The aim of this review is to provide critical comment on the literature using an information-processing framework. We provide a summary of fundamental assumptions of information-processing models and highlight an impressive range of consistent findings that demonstrate the impact of oxytocin nasal spray on social information processing. These findings include that oxytocin nasal spray improves the early conceptual detection of affect from social cues and improves the accurate appraisal of affect from social cues at elaborate and strategic levels of processing. There is some evidence that these effects may be particularly powerful for positive social cues. This review comments on inconsistent results that have been reported. We argue that such inconsistencies can, in part, be explained by variability across experiments in the degree to which potential extraneous confounds have been controlled, the different methods upon which studies assessed cognition, and the extent to which the focus of investigation has been on group-based outcomes. Finally, we argue that sound cognitive experimental methods can provide powerful tools to identify markers of response to oxytocin nasal spray that can be integrated into more complex circuitry models. The identification of robust markers has particular value in predicting behavioral and therapeutic response to intervention. This should now be a major focus for future research. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Oxytocin, Vasopressin, and Social Behavior.

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Available from: Adam J Guastella, Mar 21, 2014
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    • "Several studies have suggested that oxytocin has therapeutic effects on autistic deficits in social responses and the understanding of emotion in others (Andari et al., 2010; Striepens et al., 2012). More generally, literature on human and non-human primates presents converging evidence of oxytocin's positive effects on prosocial behaviour (Guastela and MacLeod, 2012; Chang and Platt, 2014). Recently, 7-to 14-day-old macaques where found to increase their facial gesturing at a human caregiver after oxytocin nebulization (Simpson et al., 2014). "
    Brain 03/2015; 138(7). DOI:10.1093/brain/awv060 · 10.23 Impact Factor
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    • "Recently, several critical reviews have been published. The authors of these papers emphasized the limited understating of mechanism of action, lack of information on dose-response relationship, long-term safety, social contextual effects, ethical issues regarding behavioral modulation, and the controversial impact of oxytocin in real-life circumstances [2] [5] [13] [20] [29] [52] [54]. MacDonald et al. [39] provided a comprehensive review of safety, side effects, and subjective reactions to intranasal oxytocin in controlled human studies, including more than 1500 participants. "
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    ABSTRACT: Intranasally administered oxytocin gained popularity as a hormone facilitating trust, cooperation, and affiliation. However, the long-term consequences of oxytocin use are not known. Given that intensive media attention and advertisements of the "love hormone" might lead to a new form of misuse, we conducted an online survey and identified 41 individuals with oxytocin misuse. Misuse will be proposed throughout the manuscript instead of the more accurate "off-label use" for reasons of simplicity. We compared the social functions of oxytocin users with that of 41 matched control volunteers. We administered the "Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test" (RMET) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) Toolbox Adult Social Relationship Scales (NIH-ASRS) to delineate affective "theory of mind" and real-life social functions, respectively. Resting-state functional brain connectivity analyses were also carried out. Results revealed no significant differences between individuals with oxytocin misuse and control participants on the RMET and NIH-ASRS. However, individuals with oxytocin misuse showed an increased connectivity between the right amygdala and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex relative to the control group. Higher estimated cumulative doses of oxytocin were associated with enhanced amygdala-cingulate connectivity. These results show that individuals who have self-selected for and pursued oxytocin use have increased amygdala-cingulate resting connectivity, compared to individuals who have not used oxytocin, despite the lack of differences in RMET and NIH-ASRS scores. Further longitudinal studies are warranted to investigate the cause-effect relationship between oxytocin use and brain connectivity. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Masson SAS.
    European Psychiatry 03/2015; 30(4). DOI:10.1016/j.eurpsy.2015.02.010 · 3.21 Impact Factor
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    • "In addition, consistent with our first hypothesis, a treatment effect was observed in that dogs performed significantly better after oxytocin than saline administration in session 1. This is consistent with findings for humans, demonstrating that oxytocin increases perception of biologically relevant human motion (Kéri and Benedek 2009), which is imperative for social cognitive processing and communication, and supports the notion that oxytocin increases social cognition (see reviews by Bartz et al. 2011; Guastella and MacLeod 2012). In addition, when examining difference scores between testing sessions, we observed performance improvements from session 1 to session 2 for point B3 scores in sal-oxy group dogs. "
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    ABSTRACT: It has been postulated that the neuropeptide, oxytocin, is involved in human–dog bonding. This may explain why dogs, compared to wolves, are such good performers on object choice tasks, which test their ability to attend to, and use, human social cues in order to find hidden food treats. The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of intranasal oxytocin administration, which is known to increase social cognition in humans, on domestic dogs’ ability to perform such a task. We hypothesised that dogs would perform better on the task after an intranasal treatment of oxytocin. Sixty-two (31 males and 31 females) pet dogs completed the experiment over two different testing sessions, 5–15 days apart. Intranasal oxytocin or a saline control was administered 45 min before each session. All dogs received both treatments in a pseudo-randomised, counterbalanced order. Data were collected as scores out of ten for each of the four blocks of trials in each session. Two blocks of trials were conducted using a momentary distal pointing cue and two using a gazing cue, given by the experimenter. Oxytocin enhanced performance using momentary distal pointing cues, and this enhanced level of performance was maintained over 5–15 days time in the absence of oxytocin. Oxytocin also decreased aversion to gazing cues, in that performance was below chance levels after saline administration but at chance levels after oxytocin administration.
    Animal Cognition 02/2015; 18(3). DOI:10.1007/s10071-015-0843-7 · 2.63 Impact Factor
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