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In 2011, research published in Psychopharmacology found that intranasal oxytocin improved self-perception in social situations and increased personality traits such as warmth, trust, altruism, and openness.
In 2013, a study published in PNAS suggested that oxytocin may help keep men faithful to their partners, by activating the reward centers in the brain.
In 2014, researchers published findings in the journal Emotion suggesting that people saw facial expression of emotions in others more intensely after receiving oxytocin through a nasal spray.
Psychiatric therapyOxytocin has been proposed as a possible treatment for social phobia, autism and postpartum depression.
Scientists have proposed that it might help improve interpersonal and individual wellbeing, and that it could have applications for people with some neuropsychiatric disorders.
They believe it could help people who avoid social interaction, and those who experience persistent fear and an inability to trust others.
Children with autism could benefit from oxytocin, say some researchers. In 2013, a small study suggested that oxytocin levels in the brain affected how 17 children perceived a series of social and non-social images.
Oxytocin may also play a role in anger management. Research has indicated that certain polymorphisms of the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene are associated with an increased tendency to react angrily to situations.
In particular, differences in OXTR gene expression appear to affect the regulation of the relationship between alcohol and aggressive behavior.
The role of oxytocin is complex and not easy to pin down.
While it appears to enhance bonding and the forming of communities, it may also encourage the formation of “in-groups” and “out-groups,” giving rise to envy, prejudice, and possibly aggression.
Participants in a 2014 study were more likely to lie for the benefit of others in the same group after receiving oxytocin. The findings, said researchers, could help with “providing insight into when and why collaboration turns into corruption.”
More investigation is needed to understand the complexity of oxytocin and what it does.