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Horm Behav. 2019 Aug;114:104561. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2019.104561. Epub 2019 Jul 30.

The effect of oxytocin administration on empathy and emotion recognition in residential youth: A randomized, within-subjects trial.

Author information

1
Behavioural Science Institute, Radboud University, the Netherlands. Electronic address: i.fragkaki@pwo.ru.nl.
2
Behavioural Science Institute, Radboud University, the Netherlands.

Abstract

Previous research has revealed a positive effect of oxytocin administration on several social behaviors especially in individuals with social-affective deficits. However, it is still unknown whether intranasal oxytocin administration (OT-IN) can be beneficial to residential youth who exhibit severe social-affective impairments. We conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, within-subjects, sequential study to examine the effect of OT-IN on empathy and emotion recognition in 100 male adolescents living in residential youth care facilities. We also explored the moderating role of callous-unemotional traits, trauma, and dissociation in the oxytocin effect. Participants self-administered one dose of 24 IU of oxytocin or placebo and performed experimental tasks on empathy and emotion recognition before and after the administration. The same procedure was performed one week later with the other substance. We found that empathy was increased after oxytocin administration compared to placebo and this effect was specific to individuals with high callous-unemotional traits. There was no effect of OT-IN on the overall emotion recognition, but there was a positive effect on accuracy of fear recognition. Trauma and dissociation did not moderate the oxytocin effect on empathy or emotion recognition. Our findings provided evidence of a beneficial effect of OT-IN on empathy and fear recognition in residential youth. We propose that a combination of OT-IN and psychological interventions merits further exploration, as it might be a novel promising direction for more tailored approaches and better treatment outcomes.

PMID:
31351105
DOI:
10.1016/j.yhbeh.2019.104561
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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