Vasopressin selectively impairs emotion recognition in men

Psychology Department, Hebrew University, Jerusalem 91501, Israel.
Psychoneuroendocrinology (Impact Factor: 4.94). 08/2011; 37(4):576-80. DOI: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2011.07.018
Source: PubMed


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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Available from: Idan Shalev, Jul 08, 2014
    • "Similar to OT, AVP can also have sexually differentiated effects in both humans and nonhuman animals (Thompson et al. 2006; Veenema et al. 2013), so it is important to examine AVP effects in both men and women. Finally, there is also evidence that AVP effects on men may be specific to male social stimuli (Uzefovsky et al. 2012). Thus, it is relevant that our study design involves men and women interacting with same-sex partners. "
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    ABSTRACT: Anxiety disorders are characterized by hyperactivity in both the amygdala and the anterior insula. Interventions that normalize activity in these areas may therefore be effective in treating anxiety disorders. Recently, there has been significant interest in the potential use of oxytocin (OT), as well as vasopressin (AVP) antagonists, as treatments for anxiety disorders. In this double-blind, placebo-controlled, pharmaco- fMRI study, 153 men and 151 women were randomized to treatment with either 24 IU intranasal OT, 20 IU intranasal AVP, or placebo and imaged with fMRI as they played the iterated Prisoner's Dilemma game with same-sex human and computer partners. In men, OT attenuated the fMRI response to unreciprocated cooperation (CD), a negative social interaction, within the amygdala and anterior insula. This effect was specific to interactions with human partners. In contrast, among women, OT unexpectedly attenuated the amygdala and anterior insula response to unreciprocated cooperation from computer but not human partners. Among women, AVP did not significantly modulate the response to unreciprocated cooperation in either the amygdala or the anterior insula. However, among men, AVP attenuated the BOLD response to CD outcomes with human partners across a relatively large cluster including the amygdala and the anterior insula, which was contrary to expectations. Our results suggest that OT may decrease the stress of negative social interactions among men, whereas these effects were not found in women interacting with human partners. These findings support continued investigation into the possible efficacy of OT as a treatment for anxiety disorders.
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    • "Supporting this notion, intranasal administration of vasopressin compared to placebo has been shown to selectively reduce the ability to infer mental states (particularly negative emotions) in male but not female eyes in healthy men (Uzefovsky et al. 2012). The ability to infer and comprehend the mental states of self and other, often referred to as mentalizing or theory of mind (TOM), has been proposed as an important construct in the understanding of violence (Addy et al. 2007; Blair et al. 2004, 2006; Covell and Scalora 2002; Hare 2006; Levinson and Fonagy 2004). "
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    ABSTRACT: People with schizophrenia are at increased risk, as compared to the general population, to acquire convictions for violent crimes and homicide. They also show elevated levels of aggressive behaviour. While psychotic symptoms explain aggressive behaviour that is common during acute episodes, they do not explain such behaviour at other stages of illness or prior to illness onset. Three distinct phenotypes have been identified: individuals with a childhood onset of conduct disorder who display antisocial and aggressive behaviour both before and after schizophrenia onset; individuals with no history of conduct problems who begin engaging in aggressive behaviour as illness onsets; and individuals who after many years of illness engage in a severe physical assault. Little is known about the aetiology aetiology of the three types of offenders and about the neural mechanisms that initiate and maintain these behaviours. We hypothesize that schizophrenia preceded by conduct disorder is associated with a combination of genes conferring vulnerability for both disorders and altering the effects of environmental factors on the brain, and thereby, with a distinct pattern of neural development. Some evidence is available to support this hypothesis. By contrast, offending among adults with schizophrenia schizophrenia who have no history of such behaviour prior to illness may result from the changes in the brain that occur as illness onsets, and that are further altered by comorbid conditions such as substance misuse, or by the progressive changes in the brain through adulthood that may result from the illness and from the use of antipsychotic medications.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2013 · Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences
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    • "These were accompanied by heightened autonomic responses and anxiety levels (Thompson et al., 2006), and may reflect sex specific stress coping strategies. Consistent with this account, Uzefovsky et al. (2012) reported reduced ability of males receiving AVP to correctly identify negative, (but not positive) emotions in " Reading the Mind in the Eyes " test (Baron- Cohen et al., 2001), in response to photos of males as compared to females. "
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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.
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