Vasopressin selectively impairs emotion recognition in men.
ABSTRACT The biological mechanisms underlying empathy, the ability to recognize emotions and to respond to them appropriately, are only recently becoming better understood. This report focuses on the nonapeptide arginine-vasopressin (AVP), which plays an important role in modulating social behavior in animals, especially promoting aggressive behavior. Towards clarifying the role of AVP in human social perception we used the Reading of the Mind in the Eyes Test and intranasal administration of AVP to show that AVP leads to a significant decrease in emotion recognition. Moreover, when comparing photos of males vs. females, all viewed by males, AVP had an effect on gender-matched photos only. Furthermore, the effect of AVP was restricted to recognition of negative emotions while leaving recognition of positive emotions unaffected. The current report emphasizes the selective role of AVP in male emotional perception and empathy, a core element in all human social interactions.
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ABSTRACT: Previous genetic studies showed an association between variations in the gene coding for the 1a receptor of the neuro-hormone arginine vasopressin (AVP) and musical working memory (WM). The current study set out to test the influence of intranasal administration (INA) of AVP on musical as compared to verbal WM using a double blind crossover (AVP-placebo) design. Two groups of 25 males were exposed to 20 IU of AVP in one session, and 20 IU of saline water (placebo) in a second session, 1 week apart. In each session subjects completed the tonal subtest from Gordon's "Musical Aptitude Profile," the interval subtest from the "Montreal Battery for Evaluation of Amusias (MBEA)," and the forward and backward digit span tests. Scores in the digit span tests were not influenced by AVP. In contrast, in the music tests there was an AVP effect. In the MBEA test, scores for the group receiving placebo in the first session (PV) were higher than for the group receiving vasopressin in the first session (VP) (p < 0.05) with no main Session effect nor Group × Session interaction. In the Gordon test there was a main Session effect (p < 0.05) with scores higher in the second as compared to the first session, a marginal main Group effect (p = 0.093) and a marginal Group × Session interaction (p = 0.88). In addition we found that the group that received AVP in the first session scored higher on scales indicative of happiness, and alertness on the positive and negative affect scale, (PANAS). Only in this group and only in the music test these scores were significantly correlated with memory scores. Together the results reflect a complex interaction between AVP, musical memory, arousal, and contextual effects such as session, and base levels of memory. The results are interpreted in light of music's universal use as a means to modulate arousal on the one hand, and AVP's influence on mood, arousal, and social interactions on the other.Frontiers in Psychology 01/2013; 4:712.
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ABSTRACT: Men are traditionally thought to have more problems in understanding women compared to understanding other men, though evidence supporting this assumption remains sparse. Recently, it has been shown, however, that meńs problems in recognizing women's emotions could be linked to difficulties in extracting the relevant information from the eye region, which remain one of the richest sources of social information for the attribution of mental states to others. To determine possible differences in the neural correlates underlying emotion recognition from female, as compared to male eyes, a modified version of the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test in combination with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was applied to a sample of 22 participants. We found that men actually had twice as many problems in recognizing emotions from female as compared to male eyes, and that these problems were particularly associated with a lack of activation in limbic regions of the brain (including the hippocampus and the rostral anterior cingulate cortex). Moreover, men revealed heightened activation of the right amygdala to male stimuli regardless of condition (sex vs. emotion recognition). Thus, our findings highlight the function of the amygdala in the affective component of theory of mind (ToM) and in empathy, and provide further evidence that men are substantially less able to infer mental states expressed by women, which may be accompanied by sex-specific differences in amygdala activity.PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(4):e60278. · 3.73 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: The neuropeptide vasopressin has traditionally been associated with vasoconstriction and water reabsorption by the kidneys. However, data from experimental animal studies also implicate vasopressin in social bonding processes. Preliminary work suggests that vasopressin also plays a role in social behaviors in humans. The goal of this cross-sectional study was to evaluate associations among plasma vasopressin and self-reported interpersonal functioning in a sample of married couples. During a 24-h admission to a hospital-based research unit, 37 couples completed measures of interpersonal functioning and provided blood samples for neuropeptide analyses. Results showed that vasopressin was associated with markers of interpersonal functioning, but not with general psychological distress. Specifically, greater plasma vasopressin levels were related to a larger social network, fewer negative marital interactions, less attachment avoidance, more attachment security, and marginally greater spousal social support. These results indicate that vasopressin is likely implicated in different relationship maintenance processes in humans.Biological psychology 07/2012; 91(2):270-4. · 4.36 Impact Factor