Recent studies suggest the ingestion of a certain hormone can increase a person’s ability to empathize, socialize, and possibly lead the way to medicate social-anxiety disorders.
The study, conducted by Dr. René Hurlemann of Bonn University’s Clinic for Psychiatry, along with other scientists and researchers, discovered several benefits of oxytocin, which has been well known for its therapeutic and stress-reducing benefits.
This hormone, produced more heavily in women, triggers labor pains, naturally increases during breastfeeding, and plays a role in helping a mother bond with their newborn. Studies cite that this hormone is also released after an orgasm.
Scientists sought to test the effects elevating this hormone would have in men. Scientists studied a group of 48 healthy males. The hormone was administered to 24 males with a nose spray. The other half received a placebo.
Researcher then showed the men photos of emotionally-charged subjects. One photo was of a girl hugging her cat, another a grieving man. The men were then asked for emotional reactions.
“Significantly higher emotional empathy levels were recorded for the oxytocin group than for the placebo group,” said Hurlemann. The study discovered that oxytocin is responsible for regulating emotional empathy.
The research sites that the group with the oxytocin expressed levels of emotion in men that would normally be expected of a woman.
It is unclear as to how long the spray lasts, however the research states that there’s substantial evidence implicating oxytocin in facilitating “human bonding and trust.”
Another experiment tested the social effects of the hormone. Men were asked to answer questions at a computer. When the answers were correct, they received either an approving face on the screen or a green light. When the answers were wrong, the subjects received a disapproving face, or a red light. The men with elevated levels of oxytocin reacted positively to facial feedback.
This experiment hinted at the social implications of oxytocin and how it works with the brain.
Dr. Hurlemann suggests the social benefits of this hormone might be useful for helping people who cope with schizophrenia and possibly even autism, which are frequently associated with reduced social approachability and social withdrawal.