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Trends Cogn Sci. 2016 Feb;20(2):133-145. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2015.10.009. Epub 2015 Nov 23.

Oxytocin and Social Adaptation: Insights from Neuroimaging Studies of Healthy and Clinical Populations.

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State Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning, IDG/McGovern Institute for Brain Research Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China. Electronic address:
Department of Psychology, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel.
Department of Psychology and PKU-IDG/McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Peking University, Beijing, China.
Lieber Institute for Brain Development, Baltimore, MD, USA.


Adaptation to the social environment is critical for human survival. The neuropeptide oxytocin (OT), implicated in social cognition and emotions pivotal to sociality and well-being, is a promising pharmacological target for social and emotional dysfunction. We suggest here that the multifaceted role of OT in socio-affective processes improves the capability for social adaptation. We review OT effects on socio-affective processes, with a focus on OT-neuroimaging studies, to elucidate neuropsychological mechanisms through which OT promotes social adaptation. We also review OT-neuroimaging studies of individuals with social deficits and suggest that OT ameliorates impaired social adaptation by normalizing hyper- or hypo-brain activity. The social adaption model (SAM) provides an integrative understanding of discrepant OT effects and the modulations of OT action by personal milieu and context.

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