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Psychiatry Investig. 2020 Mar 24. doi: 10.30773/pi.2019.0130. [Epub ahead of print]

Intranasal Oxytocin Increases Perceptual Salience of Faces in the Absence of Awareness.

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Center for Cognition and Brain Disorders, Institutes of Psychological Sciences and the Affiliated Hospital, Hangzhou Normal University, Hangzhou, China.
Zhejiang Key Laboratory for Research in Assessment of Cognitive Impairments, Hangzhou, China.
College of Medical Information and Engineering, Shandong First Medical University & Shandong Academy of Medical Sciences, Tai'an, China.



The neuropeptide oxytocin has been found to improve human social cognition and promote prosocial behavior. However, it is still unclear about the mechanisms underlying these effects of oxytocin on neural processes, such as visual perception and awareness. Especially, it is still unclear whether oxytocin influences perceptual salience of social stimuli in the absence of awareness.


In a randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled trial we applied an interocular suppression paradigm and eye tracking methods to investigate the influence of intranasally administered oxytocin on perceptual salience of social stimuli. Suppression times and pupillometric data were measured during subjects being presented with gradually introduced pictures of social stimuli (neutral expression faces) or nonsocial stimuli (grayscale watch pictures) that were suppressed and invisible in 10 men who were administered 24 IU oxytocin and 10 men who were administered a placebo.


The results demonstrated that the oxytocin group perceived social stimuli more quickly accompanied by subsequent larger increasing pupil diameter than nonsocial stimuli, indicating an increased unconscious salience of social stimuli.


These findings provided new insights into oxytocin's modulatory role to social information processing, suggesting that oxytocin might enhance attentional bias to social stimuli even after removal of awareness.


Face; Oxytocin; Pupil diameter; Unconscious

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