Facilitation of social attraction and bonding by the evolutionarily conserved neuropeptide oxytocin is well-established in female mammals. However, accumulating behavioral evidence suggests that oxytocin may have evolved sex-specific functional roles in the domain of human social cognition. A critical question is how oxytocin differentially modulates neural processing of social information in men and women, leading to divergent behavioral responses. Here we show that intranasal oxytocin treatment produces sex- and valence-dependent increases in amygdala activation when women view individuals identified as praising others but in men those who criticize them. Women subsequently show increased liking for the faces of these individuals, whereas in men it is reduced. Thus, oxytocin may act differentially via the amygdala to enhance the salience of positive social attributes in women but negative ones in men. We hypothesize that oxytocin may have evolved different but complementary roles to help ensure successful reproduction by encouraging mothers to promote a prosocial rearing environment for offspring and fathers to protect against antisocial influences.
Thursday, July 21, 2016
Oxytocin both bonds and divides the sexes.
From Gao et al.: