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Schizophr Res. 2013 May;146(1-3):357-62. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2013.01.006. Epub 2013 Feb 19.

Improving social perception in schizophrenia: the role of oxytocin.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Haifa, Haifa 31905, Israel.


Previous research has shown that patients with schizophrenia are impaired in a wide range of social cognitive abilities, including emotion recognition, empathy for others, and mental perspective-taking. Recent studies suggest that a dysfunction of the oxytocinergic system contributes to the social impairment in schizophrenia. Accordingly, the present study sought to examine whether patients with schizophrenia would improve in a social perception task after taking a single dose of oxytocin, as compared to a placebo. Thirty-five patients diagnosed with schizophrenia were compared with 46 psychologically healthy matched controls on their recognition of kinship and intimacy, using the Interpersonal Perception Task. All participants received a single intranasal dose of 24 IU oxytocin or placebo, one week apart. Overall, the participants were more accurate in judging intimacy and kinship following the administration of oxytocin, as opposed to a placebo. However, when comparing patients with controls, only the recognition of kinship improved significantly in the patient group, whereas no such effect was observed in the control group or in the recognition of intimacy in either group. This is one of the first studies to demonstrate that social perception in schizophrenia can be improved by the administration of oxytocin and that patients show a greater treatment effect than controls.

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