a1 Laboratory of Neuropsychology, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA
a2 King's College London, Institute of Psychiatry, Cognition, Schizophrenia and Imaging Laboratory, Department of Psychosis Studies, London, UK
a3 Sobell Department of Motor Neuroscience and Movement Disorders, Institute of Neurology, UCL, London, UK
Background Studies have suggested that patients with schizophrenia are impaired at recognizing emotions. Recently, it has been shown that the neuropeptide oxytocin can have beneficial effects on social behaviors.
Method To examine emotion recognition deficits in patients and see whether oxytocin could improve these deficits, we carried out two experiments. In the first experiment we recruited 30 patients with schizophrenia and 29 age- and IQ-matched control subjects, and gave them an emotion recognition task. Following this, we carried out a second experiment in which we recruited 21 patients with schizophrenia for a double-blind, placebo-controlled cross-over study of the effects of oxytocin on the same emotion recognition task.
Results In the first experiment we found that patients with schizophrenia had a deficit relative to controls in recognizing emotions. In the second experiment we found that administration of oxytocin improved the ability of patients to recognize emotions. The improvement was consistent and occurred for most emotions, and was present whether patients were identifying morphed or non-morphed faces.
Conclusions These data add to a growing literature showing beneficial effects of oxytocin on social–behavioral tasks, as well as clinical symptoms.
(Received May 10 2011)
(Revised July 05 2011)
(Accepted July 06 2011)
(Online publication August 11 2011)
c1 Address for correspondence: B. B. Averbeck, Ph.D., Laboratory of Neuropsychology, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, 20892, USA. (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)