Nav: Home

Oxytocin in the recognition of emotions

June 14, 2016

Oxytoxin, whether functioning as a hormone or a neurotransmitter, is involved in a series of important physiological and psychological functions. For example, it promotes maternal attachment, lactation, pair bonding and group cohesion. However, the picture is actually far more complex, just think that it can sometimes even lead to aggressive behaviour.

Experimental results also show that intranasal administration (with a spray) of oxytocin makes people more willing to take care of others and better at recognizing emotions.

It was this latter effect that attracted the attention of Sebastian Korb, researcher at the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) in Trieste and expert on facial mimicry: "what is the mechanism at the basis of the emotion recognition facilitation observed after the administration of intranasal oxytocin?" Korb asked himself. According to embodied cognition theory, the ability to imitate an emotional expression seen on the face of others facilitates the recognition of the emotion. "Could oxytocin be stimulating the imitation?". To test the existence of a relationship between oxytocin and facial mimicry, Korb and colleagues selected a sample of 60 adult males and gave, in form of a spray, half the sample a dose of oxytocin and the other half a dose of placebo (the design was double blind, meaning that neither the experimenter nor the subject were aware of which product was administered). After a sufficient time interval for the drug to take effect, the subjects underwent a series of tests assessing the evaluation and recognition of emotional expressions shown in a series of short videos depicting adult or infant faces. As they performed the tests, the response of their facial muscles was also recorded to measure facial mimicry.

The results showed that facial mimicry was more pronounced in the subject who received the oxytocin dose (compared to those who received the placebo), and that this increase in mimicry was greater when subjects observed newborns crying (anger and sadness are not easily distinguishable in very young infants).

"The finding is interesting not only because it shows that oxytocin has a modulating effect on facial mimicry, but also because there is a strong response to infant faces even in males, whereas effects of oxytocin on caregiving had typically been shown in women". The study, published in Hormones and Behavior was conducted with the participation of the University of Geneva in Switzerland and the University of Wisconsin in the United States.
-end-


International School of Advanced Studies (SISSA)

Related Placebo Articles:

The placebo effect and psychedelic drugs: tripping on nothing?
A new study from McGill suggests that, in the right context, some people may experience psychedelic-like effects from placebos alone.
Methotrexate reduces joint damage progression over placebo in erosive hand OA
According to new research findings presented at the 2019 ACR/ARP Annual Meeting, methotrexate did not demonstrate superior efficacy over placebo for pain relief and function evolution at three and 12 months in patients with erosive hand osteoarthritis, but did significantly reduce the progression of joint damage over placebo and seems to facilitate bone remodeling in these patients.
Botulinum toxin reduces chronic migraine attacks, compared to placebo
A growing body of evidence supports the effectiveness of botulinum toxin injections in reducing the frequency of chronic migraine headaches, concludes an updated review and analysis in the January issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).
Opioids vs. placebo, nonopioid alternatives for chronic noncancer pain
An estimated 50 million adults in the United States were living with chronic noncancer pain in 2016 and many of them were prescribed opioid medications, even though a clinical benefit is uncertain.
Probiotic no better than placebo for acute gastroenteritis in children
While probiotics are often used to treat acute gastroenteritis (also known as infectious diarrhea) in children, the latest evidence shows no significant differences in outcomes, compared to a placebo.
Most common shoulder operation is no more beneficial than placebo surgery
In a landmark study published this week in the BMJ, Finnish researchers show that one of the most common surgical procedures in the Western world is probably unnecessary.
Omega-3s from fish oil supplements no better than placebo for dry eye
Omega-3 fatty acid supplements taken orally proved no better than placebo at relieving symptoms or signs of dry eye, according to the findings of a well-controlled trial funded by the National Eye Institute (NEI), part of the National Institutes of Health.
Review of Vitamin D Research identifies ethical issues in placebo use
George Washington University's Dr. Leigh Frame reviewed several studies using placebo groups in clinical trials that may pose ethical issues.
Hydroxychloroquine no more effective than placebo for relieving osteoarthritis hand pain
Hydroxychloroquine is no more effective than placebo for relieving moderate to severe hand pain and radiographic osteoarthritis.
Study of heart stents for stable angina highlights potential of placebo effect
Researchers at Imperial College London have explored the placebo effects of a coronary angioplasty procedure with stents for the first time.
More Placebo News and Placebo Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.