High oxytocin levels can trigger oversensitivity to emotions of others
New research from Concordia University in Canada suggests that while oxytocin may help individuals with autism and schizophrenia better interact with others, it could present problems when prescribed off-label for patients who suffer from mild social issues, such as anxiety.
The researchers recruited 82 healthy adults who had no signs of autism, schizophrenia or any related conditions. Half of the participants were required to self-administer a 24 IU dose of intranasal oxytocin, while the rest of the subjects were given a placebo.
The participants were then asked to carry out an emotional identification accuracy test. This required them to compare a variety of facial expressions that were showing different emotional states. The researchers say they were not surprised to find that the participants who had taken the oxytocin reported seeing a greater intensity of emotion in the faces, compared with the subjects who had taken the placebo.
The researchers note that oxytocin does have benefits for those with severe social problems, but it may have detrimental emotional effects, such as oversensitivity to normal emotional cues, for otherwise healthy people.
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