Oxytocin and vasopressin are key effectors of social behaviour (Insel, T. R. and Fernald, R. D. (2004). Annu. Rev. Neurosci., 27: 697-722). Oxytocin effects in humans were recently demonstrated by a behavioural study showing selectively increased trust after hormone administration (Kosfeld, M., et al. (2005). Nature, 435: 673-676). Since this suggested involvement of the amygdala, which is linked to trust (Winston, J. S., et al. (2002). Nat. Neurosci., 5: 277-283) - presumably because of its role in danger monitoring - and highly expresses oxytocin receptors (Huber, D., et al. (2005). Science, 308: 245-248), we studied amygdala circuitry after double-blind crossover intranasal application of placebo or oxytocin (Kirsch, P., et al. (2005). J. Neurosci., 25: 11489-11493). Oxytocin potently reduced amygdala activation and decreased coupling to brainstem regions implicated in autonomic and behavioural manifestations of fear, indicating a neural mechanism for the effects of oxytocin in social cognition in humans and providing a potential therapeutic approach to social anxiety currently being tested in social phobia and autism. Furthermore, these data suggested a translational genetic approach. Preliminary findings (data not presented) from our laboratory using imaging genetics indeed implicate genetic variants for both AVPR1A, encoding the primary receptor of vasopressin in brain, and the oxytocin receptor, OXTR, in amygdala regulation and activation. Taken together, our results indicate neural mechanisms for human social behaviour mediating genetic risk for autism through an impact on amygdala signalling and provide a rationale for exploring therapeutic strategies aimed at abnormal amygdala function in this disorder and in social dysfunction in general.
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"Recent efforts have been taken to interpret these inconsistencies. For instance, the social salience (or " optimizing " ) model proposes that rather than increasing the expression of prosocial emotions (Meyer-Lindenberg, 2008), OT increases the salience of social cues (Shamay-Tsoory et al., 2009). This model first emerged following a series of studies that demonstrated group based findings highlighting the role of oxytocin in enhancing social cognition and behavior (for a review see Guastella and MacLeod, 2012). "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Accumulating evidence demonstrates the important role of oxytocin (OT) in the modulation of social cognition and behavior. This has led many to suggest that the intranasal administration of OT may benefit psychiatric disorders characterized by social dysfunction, such as autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia. Here, we review nasal anatomy and OT pathways to central and peripheral destinations, along with the impact of OT delivery to these destinations on social behavior and cognition. The primary goal of this review is to describe how these identified pathways may contribute to mechanisms of OT action on social cognition and behavior (that is, modulation of social information processing, anxiolytic effects, increases in approach-behaviors). We propose a two-level model involving three pathways to account for responses observed in both social cognition and behavior after intranasal OT administration and suggest avenues for future research to advance this research field.
"In contrast, under the influence of OT, this link should disappear and make way for a link between angry rumination and nonpersonalistic attributions (which put the blame on the perpetrator's situation). Nonpersonalistic attributions constitute a more prosocial way of explaining the perpetrator's behavior and might therefore provide an interesting possibility how prosocial effects of OT (Meyer-Lindenberg, 2008) are associated with cognitive processes. "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Recent research revealed that the neuropeptide Oxytocin (OT) increases and maintains trustful behavior, even towards interaction partners that have proven to be untrustworthy. However, the cognitive mechanisms behind this effect are unclear. In the present paper, we propose that OT might boost trust through the link between angry rumination and the use of nonpersonalistic and personalistic attributions. Nonpersonalistic attributions put the blame for the betrayal on the perpetrator's situation, whereas personalistic attributions blame his dispositions for the event. We predict that OT changes attribution processes in favor of nonpersonalistic ones and thereby boosts subsequent trust. Participants played a classic trust game in which the opponent systematically betrayed their trust. As predicted, OT strengthened the relationship between angry rumination about the event and nonpersonalistic attribution of the opponents' behavior and weakened the link between angry rumination and personalistic attribution. Critically, nonpersonalistic attribution also mediated the interactive effect of OT and angry rumination on how strongly investments were reduced in the remaining rounds of the trust game. In summary, the present findings suggest that one underlying cognitive mechanism behind OT-induced trust might relate to how negative emotions evoked by a breach of trust influence the subsequent attributional analysis: OT seems to augment trust by fostering the interpretation of untrustworthy behavior as caused by non-personal factors.
Full-text · Article · Nov 2012 · Biological psychology
"Oxytocin has also been found to improve the ability to make inferences about the mental state of another from the eye-region of the face (Domes et al., 2007b; Luminet et al., 2011) and to increase attention to the eye-region of faces as reflected in increased numbers of fixations and fixation time (Guastella et al., 2008a; but see Lischke et al., 2011 for contrasting results). Using fMRI to image brain activity, several studies have found reductions of amygdala activation among male participants in response to different facial expressions after oxytocin compared to placebo administration (Domes et al., 2007a; Kirsch et al., 2005; Meyer-Lindenberg, 2008; Petrovic et al., 2008), although some have obtained more complex findings (e.g., Gamer et al., 2010). Reduced amygdala activity has been suggested to reflect reduced arousal resulting from a reduction in uncertainty about the meaning of social stimuli. "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: This is the first experimental study on the effect of oxytocin administration on the neural processing of facial stimuli conducted with female participants that uses event-related potentials (ERPs). Using a double-blind, placebo-controlled within-subjects design, we studied effects of 16IU of intranasal oxytocin on ERPs to pictures combining performance feedback with emotional facial expressions in 48 female undergraduate students. Participants also reported on the amount of love withdrawal they experienced from their mothers. Vertex positive potential (VPP) and late positive potential (LPP) amplitudes were more positive after oxytocin compared to placebo administration. This suggests that oxytocin increased attention to the feedback stimuli (LPP) and enhanced the processing of emotional faces (VPP). Oxytocin heightened processing of the happy and disgusted faces primarily for those reporting less love withdrawal. Significant associations with LPP amplitude suggest that more maternal love withdrawal relates to the allocation of attention toward the motivationally relevant combination of negative feedback with a disgusted face.
Full-text · Article · Nov 2012 · Hormones and Behavior