Taking oxytocin helps empathy

Brain Ethics has found an intriguing study which suggests that giving people the hormone oxytocin makes them better at reading emotion from other people’s eyes.

Oxytocin is a hormone that also works as a neurotransmitter, and is known to be involved in bonding experiences.

It is released during sex, and also when mothers breast feed their infants.

A 2005 study published in Nature [pdf] suggested that oxytocin increased trustfulness in people playing a co-operative investment game.

This study, published in Biological Psychiatry, is the first to suggest that the a burst of the hormone actually makes us better at perceiving others’ emotions.

The full text of the study is available online as a pdf file if you want to get more details about the research.

Link to Brain Ethics article ‘Oxytocin is the window to the soul’.
pdf of full-text of scientific study.

One Comment

  1. Posted March 18, 2007 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    I find this very interesting. Has any research been done to apply this new information outside of the clinical setting?
    I wonder if oxytocin (pitocin) could be used to treat people on the autism spectrum. Reading non-verbal cues is such a difficult deficiency to remediate and it is a critical skill for communication.
    Is there a way to stimulate the part of the brain that naturally produces oxytocin? Or are the neurotransmitters the problem?
    Thank you for your blog. I read it almost daily. I am pleased to learn of your new adventure in Dublin. I look forward to reading about what you learn working with children and adults with neurodevelopmental disorders and learning disabilities.
    ~s


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