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Boys Own Empathy Drug

Posted Sep 13 2008 3:04am

Interesting little snippet in New Scientist this week. A quick snort of Oxycontin improves your empathy but only if you are male.

The trust hormone, it seems, is also the mind-reading hormone. A sniff of oxytocin, which underpins social attachment among animals, also turns out to improve men's ability to read other people's emotions.

Two years ago, researchers reported that oxytocin increases trust. Now a team led by Gregor Domes at Rostock University, Germany has investigated one of the basic components of trust: emotional recognition.

The researchers sprayed oxytocin up the noses of 30 men and tested how well they could read the emotions conveyed by photographs of eyes taken in real-life situations. Twenty of them performed significantly better on the test after sniffing the hormone (Biological Psychiatry, vol 61, p 731). Domes suggests that oxytocin could be investigated as a treatment for people with autism, who struggle to read the emotions of others.

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