Oxytocin attenuates feelings of hostility depending on emotional context and individuals' characteristics

Scientific Reports (Impact Factor: 5.58). 04/2012; 2:384. DOI: 10.1038/srep00384
Source: PubMed


In humans, oxytocin (OT) enhances prosocial behaviour. However, it is still unclear how the prosocial effects of OT are modulated by emotional features and/or individuals' characteristics. In a placebo-controlled design, we tested 20 healthy male volunteers to investigate these behavioural and neurophysiological modulations using magnetoencephalography. As an index of the individuals' characteristics, we used the empathy quotient (EQ), the autism spectrum quotient (AQ), and the systemising quotient (SQ). Only during the perception of another person's angry face was a higher SQ a significant predictor of OT-induced prosocial change, both in the behavioural and neurophysiological indicators. In addition, a lower EQ was only a significant predictor of OT-induced prosocial changes in the neurophysiological indicators during the perception of angry faces. Both on the behavioural and the neurophysiological level, the effects of OT were specific for anger and correlated with a higher SQ.

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Available from: Tsunehisa Tsubokawa, Dec 25, 2013
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    • "By increasing the cognitive availability of such information , OT can increase the empathic response to the distress of others. This hypothesis is in accord with evidence showing that OT enhances mentalizing and recognition of emotions in others (Domes et al., 2007; Guastella et al., 2010), increases trust toward unrelated others (Kosfeld et al., 2005) and negative emotions such as envy in competitive situations (Shamay-Tsoory et al., 2009; Hirosawa et al., 2012), modulates the social relevance of emotional stimuli (Kirsch et al., 2005), interacts with dopamine to regulate socio-affiliative behaviors (Liu and Wang, 2003; Zeki, 2007) and the appropriate assignment of salience to social stimuli (Skuse and Gallagher, 2009). One of the most rudimentary empathy mechanisms is that of empathy to pain, a concept that describes our tendency to automatically experience distress when facing someone else's pain. "
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    ABSTRACT: Studies have argued that empathy to the pain of out-group members is largely diminished by "in-group empathy bias". Investigating the mechanism underlying the emotional reactions of Jewish Israeli participants toward the pain experienced by Palestinians in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict affords a natural experiment that allows us to examine the role of neurohormones in emotion sensitivity across conflicting social groups. In a double-blind placebo-controlled within-subject crossover design, Israeli Jewish participants were asked to report their empathy to the pain of in-group (Jewish), neutral out-group (European), and adversary out-group (Palestinian) members. Oxytocin remarkably increased empathy to the pain of Palestinians, attenuating the effect of in-group empathy bias observed under the placebo condition. This effect, we argue, is driven by the general role of oxytocin in increasing the salience of social agents which, in turn, may interfere with processes pertaining to derogation of out-group members during intractable conflicts.
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    • "OXT improves social cognition in autistic individuals (Domes et al., 2007; Bartz and Hollander, 2008; Guastella et al., 2010). Nasal OXT spray can modify social signals and the social feedback process in high-functioning autistic patients (Andari et al., 2010; Bartz et al., 2010; Hirosawa et al., 2012). Thus, several OXT-controlled processes have been implicated in different types of mammalian social behavior. "
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    ABSTRACT: The nine amino acid peptide oxytocin (OXT) has been directly associated with different types of behavioral reactions. The formation and maintenance of social relationships in youth and middle age are important components of human mental health. A deficit in healthy behavioral formation leads to social isolation and limitation of well-being. Mice are social animals and are therefore useful for investigating the neurobiological mechanisms of cognitive process control, including the development of social relationships and social skills. Studies in mice may broaden our understanding of the human condition. The multifunctional protein CD38/ADP-ribosyl cyclase is highly expressed in the brain, plays an important role in central OXT release, and regulates social memory. In this review article, we discuss the mechanisms of social behavior affected by the dysregulation of brain OXT function as a consequence of a lack of CD38. OXT bound to OXT receptors initiates autoregulatory positive feedback of OXT release in the hypothalamus and posterior pituitary. OXT bio-behavioral positive feedback is usually implicated in female reproductive systems, but can also be observed in social behavior. Exogenous stimuli (OXT treatment in vitro, OXT intravenous or intraventricular administration, and nasal OXT delivery) initiate activation of OXT neurons via PKC-CD38/ADP-ribosyl cyclase cascades and result in the modulation of social behavior in humans and mice. Based on these findings, we reviewed the functions of OXT and its properties with respect to the development of therapies for human social behavior impairments in psychological diseases. In addition, preliminary studies of continuous nasal OXT administration on subjects with autism spectrum disorders are described.
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