Thursday, September 03, 2015
Oxytocin - more sophisticated views of its functions
Helen Shen offers a review of studies on oxytocin, the “hug hormone,” which influences maternal behavior and social attachment in various species. She notes research showing that oxytocin acts on inhibitory interneurons in a way that quiets background chatter within neuronal circuits, and thus may help social interaction and recognition is by enhancing the brain's response to socially relevant sights, sounds or other stimuli. MindBlog has done posts on experiments showing that oxytocin, delivered through an intranasal spray, can promote various aspects of social behavior in healthy adults. People who inhale oxytocin before playing an investment game are more willing to entrust their money to a stranger than are placebo-treated players. A dose of the hormone increases the amount of time people spend gazing at the eye region of faces, and improves their ability to infer the emotional state of others from subtle expressions. Shen’s review also summarizes efforts to test oxytocin’s usefulness in treating psychiatric disorders such as autism.