August 1, 2022 – Nasal sprays that contain the “love hormone” oxytocin have been marketed as a potential panacea for improving emotional connection with others and even saving difficult relationships. But a new study from the UK suggests otherwise, revealing that oxytocin spray does not make healthy young men better able to recognize emotions.

What helped? A psychological and computerized emotional training program.

“Our study demonstrates that oxytocin is not always the most appropriate intervention to improve the social life and well-being of patients,” says Katie Daughters, PhD, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex. .

Oxytocin, which is released naturally in the body, plays a key role in managing behavior and emotions.

Some studies have suggested that oxytocin nasal spray may play a role in people who have difficulty recognizing emotions, such as people with autism, schizophrenia or social anxiety disorder – although the results were been mixed.

People who have trouble recognizing their emotions are more likely to have poor mental health. The new study investigated whether oxytocin could improve healthy people’s ability to recognize emotions.

The researchers recruited 104 undergraduate students with an average age of 19.

Some received an oxytocin nasal spray, others a placebo nasal spray. They then completed a computer-validated emotional training program or a simulated emotional training program and were tested on their ability to read emotions.

The emotional training program helped the men identify sad and angry faces, but the oxytocin spray had no effect.

The researchers warn that more studies on the effects of oxytocin nasal spray are needed and worthwhile, especially in women and people with psychological disorders.

“We still don’t understand enough about how the body processes oxytocin sprays. We need to know more about oxytocin before using it as a treatment,” says Daughters.

“Like all medications, it is not advisable to take oxytocin without discussing it with a healthcare professional. Indeed, as our study demonstrates, there may be other interventions better suited to your situation. individual,” she said.

For now, it is not known if the “love hormone” can help repair difficult relationships.

“No scientific studies have examined oxytocin administration in romantic relationships. We need more evidence before we can make any recommendations,” says Daughters.

On the other hand, some computerized psychological interventions can help people recognize and interpret different emotional expressions, she says.