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Is Oxytocin, called by some the "hormone of love," good for anxiety?

That's what a new clincal study by UCSD Professor David Feifel aims to discover, according to a notice on the site ClinicalTrials.Gov, run by the U.S. National Insitutes of Health.

Entitled Oxytocin Add-on Study for Stable Anxiety Patients, the double-blind randomized trial will "compare the efficacy of intranasal oxytocin versus intranasal placebo to improve anxiety symptoms in patients with a variety of anxiety disorders."

"Each subject will be enrolled for 6 week treatment period after a screening phase," according to the announcement.

"Study procedures involve weekly clinic visits as an outpatient. Forty patients will be randomly assigned to either 40 International Units (IU) oxytocin twice daily or vehicle placebo."

According to the post, past research has shown that dosages of Oxytocin "increased levels of trust" and "reduced activation of brain circuits involved in fear in human subjects."

But not everyone is so high on the hormone.

A year ago the New York Times reported that one researcher discovered that Oxytocin has a darker side:

"A principal author of the new take on oxytocin is Carsten K. W. De Dreu, a psychologist at the University of Amsterdam.

"Reading the growing literature on the warm and cuddly effects of oxytocin, he decided on evolutionary principles that no one who placed unbounded trust in others could survive.

"Thus there must be limits on oxytocin’s ability to induce trust, he assumed, and he set out to define them.

"In a report published last year in Science, based on experiments in which subjects distributed money, he and colleagues showed that doses of oxytocin made people more likely to favor the in-group at the expense of an out-group.

"With a new set of experiments in Tuesday’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, he has extended his study to ethnic attitudes, using Muslims and Germans as the out-groups for his subjects, Dutch college students."

In one set of experiments, the Times reported, "the Dutch students were given standard moral dilemmas in which a choice must be made about whether to help a person onto an overloaded lifeboat, thereby drowning the five already there, or saving five people in the path of a train by throwing a bystander onto the tracks.

"In Dr. De Dreu’s experiments, the five people who might be saved were nameless, but the sacrificial victim had either a Dutch or a Muslim name.

"Subjects who had taken oxytocin were far more likely to sacrifice the Muhammads than the Maartens."

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