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Oxytocin Improves “Mind-Reading” in Humans

Published:November 30, 2006DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2006.07.015

      Background

      The ability to “read the mind” of other individuals, that is, to infer their mental state by interpreting subtle social cues, is indispensable in human social interaction. The neuropeptide oxytocin plays a central role in social approach behavior in nonhuman mammals.

      Methods

      In a double-blind, placebo-controlled, within-subject design, 30 healthy male volunteers were tested for their ability to infer the affective mental state of others using the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET) after intranasal administration of 24 IU oxytocin.

      Results

      Oxytocin improved performance on the RMET compared with placebo. This effect was pronounced for difficult compared with easy items.

      Conclusions

      Our data suggest that oxytocin improves the ability to infer the mental state of others from social cues of the eye region. Oxytocin might play a role in the pathogenesis of autism spectrum disorder, which is characterized by severe social impairment.

      Key Words

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