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The effect of intranasal oxytocin on visual processing and salience of human faces

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Martens,  L
Department High-Field Magnetic Resonance, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;
Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Hovey, D., Martens, L., Laeng, B., Leknes, S., & Westberg, L. (2020). The effect of intranasal oxytocin on visual processing and salience of human faces. Translational Psychiatry, 10(1): 318, pp. 1-9. doi:10.1038/s41398-020-00991-3.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-0EEB-2
Abstract
The mechanisms underlying the role of oxytocin (OT) as a regulator of social behavior in mammals are only partly understood. Recently, it has been proposed that OT increases the salience of social stimuli. We carried out a randomized, double-blind, cross-over study of the effects of OT on binocular rivalry, a visual phenomenon underpinned by the interplay of excitation and inhibition in the cortex. A final sample of 45 participants viewed images of social stimuli (faces with different emotional expressions) and non-social stimuli (houses and Gabor patches). We demonstrate a robust effect that intranasal OT increases the salience of human faces in binocular rivalry, such that dominance durations of faces are longer-this effect is not modulated by the facial expression. We tentatively show that OT treatment increases dominance durations for non-social stimuli. Our results lend support to the social salience hypothesis of OT, and in addition offer provisional support for the role of OT in influencing excitation-inhibition balance in the brain.