Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Oxytocin makes a face in memory familiar

It is known that men treated with oxytocin perform better in inferring affective state from the eye region of human faces. Oxytocin also increases social behaviors like trust. Rimmele at al. show now that oxytocin delivered by a commercially available nasal spray (Syntocinon Spray from Novartis) selectively enhances memory encoding of faces in humans, but not of nonsocial stimuli. Here is their abstract:
Social recognition is the basis of all social interactions. Here, we show that, in humans, the evolutionarily highly conserved neuropeptide oxytocin, after intranasal administration, specifically improves recognition memory for faces, but not for nonsocial stimuli. With increased oxytocin levels, previously presented faces were more correctly assessed as "known," whereas the ability of recollecting faces was unchanged. This pattern speaks for an immediate and selective effect of the peptide strengthening neuronal systems of social memory.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Deric.

    Interesting. Oxytocin is known as an agent of plastic change in the brain. It's usually associated with "unlearning" or "reorganizing," i.e., loosening existing structures so that they can be reframed.

    In new parents and when we fall in love, the agent of the brain upheaval that changes our life perspective is Oxytocin. In smaller doses it's released during orgasm. (This new data perhaps explains why a man may remember his partner's face but not her name...)