September 24, 2010

Oxytocin Nasal Spray Could Help Cure Shyness

A new study suggests that a nasal spray containing oxytocin could cure shyness.

Scientists found that the hormone oxytocin could help people who are shy overcome awkwardness in social situations.

The chemical is known to increase empathy and bonding, especially parents and their children.

However, researchers have now found it also improves the social skills of shy people.

The finding could help those with severe social deficiencies, which is apparent in conditions like autism.

Researchers at Seaver Autism Center for Research and Treatment and Columbia University both examined whether the hormone could make us more understanding of others.

They conducted a study on 27 healthy adult men, giving them the hormone or a placebo through a nasal spray.  They asked them to perform an "empathic accuracy task," which measured their powers of reading the thoughts and feelings of others.

This involved watching others discussing emotional moments in their lives, then rating how they felt those people were feeling.

The scientists also measured participants' social competency, using a test known as AQ, which is usually used in autistic patients.

They found that oxytocin improves the powers of empathy, but only among those who were less socially proficient in the first place.

The more socially comfortable participants performed well on the empathetic task regardless of whether they were on oxytocin or placebo.

However, the less socially proficient participants performed better on oxytocin.

Professor Jennifer Bartz, of the Mount Sinai school of Medicine, told Telegraph.co.uk, "Oxytocin is widely believed to make all people more empathetic and understanding of others.

"Our study contradicts that. Instead, oxytocin appears to be helpful only for those who are less socially proficient.

"Our data show that oxytocin selectively improves social cognition in people who are less socially proficient, but had little impact on more socially proficient individuals.

"While more research is required, these results highlight the potential oxytocin holds for treating social deficits in people with disorders marked by deficits in social functioning like autism."


On the Net: