Love Hormone Oxytocin Nose Spray Helps Shyness
People who suffer with shyness may be able to spray their awkwardness away with the so-called love hormone called oxytocin. Scientists have found that the hormone can improve empathy among people who are overly shy.
Oxytocin Proves Helpful in Social Skills and Bonding
Oxytocin is a hormone that is synthesized in the hypothalamus in the brain, as well as secreted by the ovaries and testes. It has long been recognized as a hormone involved in birth and lactation.
One of oxytocin’s major tasks is to stimulate milk ejection from the breast, while another is to stimulate uterine smooth muscle during birth. Oxytocin is also instrumental in establishing maternal behavior and bonding of mother and child. In males, it helps transport sperm within the reproductive system and may also have some impact on male sexual behavior.
Recent research has shown that the love hormone can increase empathy and bonding, especially between parents and their children. Some experts have suggested it may also be helpful in treating children who have autism.
Now researchers at Seaver Autism Center for Research and Treatment at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Columbia University have evidence that oxytocin could improve awkwardness in people who are shy, but not those who are naturally confident.
They arrived at this conclusion after testing 27 healthy adult men who were given either a placebo or oxytocin via nasal spray. The subjects were then asked to perform a task that measured their ability to read the feelings and thoughts of others. The researchers also measured the men’s social competency using a test that is usually used in autistic patients.
Men who were already less socially proficient and who received the oxytocin nasal spray demonstrated improved powers of empathy. Men who were not shy initially performed well on the empathy test regardless of whether they received oxytocin or placebo.
Professor Jennifer Bartz, of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, explained that “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 into the effects of oxytocin on shyness is needed, “these results highlight the potential oxytocin holds for treating social deficits in people with disorders marked by deficits in social functioning like autism.”
Mount Sinai School of Medicine