The acute effects of intranasal oxytocin on automatic and effortful attentional shifting

Centre for Research in Human Development, Department of Psychology, Concordia University, Montréal, Québec, Canada.
Psychophysiology (Impact Factor: 3.18). 09/2011; 49(1):128-37. DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-8986.2011.01278.x
Source: PubMed


Oxytocin is known to promote social affiliation. The mechanism by which this occurs is unknown, but it may involve changes in social information processing. In a placebo-controlled study, we examined the influence of intranasal oxytocin on effortful and automatic attentional shifting in 57 participants using a spatial cueing task with emotional and neutral faces. For effortful processing, oxytocin decreased the speed of shifting attention to sad faces presented for 750 ms and facilitated disengagement from right hemifield sad and angry faces presented for 200 ms. For automatic processing, symptoms of depression moderated the relationship between drug and disengagement. Oxytocin attenuated an attentional bias to masked angry faces on disengagement trials in persons with high depression scores. Oxytocin's influence on social behavior may occur, in part, by eliciting flexible attentional shifting in the early stages of information processing.

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Available from: Christopher Cardoso, Jan 28, 2014
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    • "The nonsocial version of the task used numbers instead of faces. In view of the evidence for inappropriate or biased attention towards emotional social stimuli in ASD, social anxiety and depression, and that OXT effects are sometimes modified by these traits (Bartz et al., 2010; Clark-Efford et al., 2014; Ellenbogen et al., 2012; Scheele et al., 2014) we have additionally investigated potential associations between OXT effects and anxiety, autistic and depression traits using questionnaire-based assessments. We hypothesized that OXT would increase attentional bias towards positive face expressions and decrease it towards negative ones, especially during the period of reduced attention when the AB phenomenon occurred. "
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    • "Depression is often associated with cognitive processing biases toward negative stimuli (MacLeod et al., 1986), and oxytocin treatment could potentially influence this disorder by affecting sensitivity to social cues (Bartz et al., 2011). Indeed, among individuals with high depression scores, oxytocin attenuated the attentional bias that otherwise existed in relation to masked angry faces (Ellenbogen et al., 2012). It is thought that the inability to inhibit the influence of negative stimuli on cognitive and emotional responses contributes to major depression, which may be modulated by oxytocin . "
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