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A small clinical study performed by researchers in Sweden has given hope that oxytocin nasal spray may have benefits for sufferers of mental illness, and in particular patients who have difficulty understanding and reacting appropriately to social signals, including patients with autism.

Now, Scandinavian scientists have produced new data from a small clinical trial showing that low doses of oxytocin delivered as a nasal spray might benefit patients with mental and cognitive problems.

Researchers from the University of Oslo in Norway teamed up with Yardley, Pa.-based OptiNose to test the company’s investigational device designed to improve medicine delivery to the brain via the nose. The advantage of nasal drug delivery is that the effects can be felt more immediately than medication in an oral form. Nasal delivery is also used as a noninvasive alternative for some drugs that were traditionally administered intravenously. OptiNose claims that its technology delivers oxytocin to the upper part of the nose, which is thought to be a better target to get drugs to the brain.

The trial enrolled 16 healthy adult volunteers and evaluated two different doses of oxytocin and their effect on how social signals are perceived. Each of the men underwent four, single-dose treatments: a placebo, a low dose of oxytocin, a high dose of oxytocin and an intravenous dose of oxytocin. The intravenous dose was used to compare the effects of oxytocin in circulating blood. After each dose, participants were then presented with 20 male and 20 female faces displaying angry, happy and emotionally ambiguous expressions and were asked to identify how angry or happy the people seemed.


Although many research papers have earned oxytocin the title of 'the love hormone' or 'the cuddle hormone', several studies have suggested that oxytocin may even increase hostility to others perceived to be outside of the 'ingroup'.  Research has even raised fears that the hormone may simply magnify existing social traits.  So for example, whilst in most humans oxytocin might increase social bonding and trust in others, in certain people - such as psychopaths and violent anti-social criminals - it could even make their proclivities even more dangerous.

So researchers recently decided to conduct a thorough investigation into the effects of animals that are very like us, except that they are noted for competition and aggression  (so perhaps very like us humans) - Rhesus monkeys.  Would the inhalation of oxytocin nasal spray make the monkeys more or even less sociable?

The results of the study are encouraging.  The monkeys given oxytocin spray were more likely to let other Rhesus monkeys have a sip of 'their' juice than before.  The conclusion is that oxytocin could lead to more altruistic behaviour and kindness in the most hostile and aggressive humans.

Source :  Oxytocin hormone makes mothers kinder