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Hormone Oxytocin Could Make Men More Empathetic, Aid With Schitzophrenia

Scientists Identify the Cuddle Hormone

Take a snort, get more cuddly. No, I'm not talking about a new designer nightclub drug, but a new study of how the hormone oxytocin can make men more empathetic.

The same hormone that is elevated during sex, brings on labor pains during childbirth, stimulates the production of breast milk, and aids mother-child bonding may also help men get more in touch with other people's emotions.

In a fascinating study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, volunteers were given an inhaled nasal spray containing the hormone, then shown photos that were likely to trigger emotions, such as "a crying child, a girl hugging her cat, and a grieving man." Half the men got the spray, and another half received a placebo:

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Those who had the hormone spray had markedly higher levels of empathy — of a similar magnitude to those only usually seen in women who are naturally more sensitive to the feelings of others.

Women's hormones get blamed for a lot of things, but it seems our oxytocin is a help, not a hindrance. But don't expect to be able to rush out and buy the cuddle drug for your boyfriend just yet; there are far more pressing applications for this potential psychiatric medication first, so

.

The most promising results of the study suggest that oxytocin spray could help treat schizophrenia, autism, and other conditions that cause social withdrawal and a lack of empathy. That's because patients given the spray were also better able to respond to positive and negative facial feedback, suggesting it could help people who have difficulty responding to social cues.

Do you think that women are fundamentally better at empathy than men?

Join The Conversation
Bettye-Wayne Bettye-Wayne 7 years
Oxytocin is definitely old news... though using it to treat schizophrenia and autism is fascinating!
mix-tape mix-tape 7 years
This has been known for a while! My friend just got a tattoo of oxytocin, the molecule's structure, on her leg. I think it's a pretty sweet tat.
Anne26 Anne26 7 years
Haha. I'm glad I do not have to worry about that.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 7 years
Ha! I can just see the SNL skit now in my head. The insensitive husband is being an @ss again so the wife just gives him a couple of sprays and vuala! He's now loving and empathetic.
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