The many faces of oxytocin: implications for psychiatry.
Oxytocin is known as the 'love hormone' due its role in promoting mother-child and pair bonding. More recent research indicates that oxytocin may have broader pro-social effects on behavior and cognition, which points towards oxytocin's potential as an agent to help improve social cognition and functioning in psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and autism. However, new research on oxytocin has also uncovered a 'darker side', including oxytocin's possible role in social out-grouping and envy. Instead of a simple view of oxytocin as 'good' or 'bad', a more accurate depiction of oxytocin's role in social processing likely involves the presence of moderating factors. We review moderation effects in oxytocin and their implications for psychiatry. One implication is that, across diagnostic categories, oxytocin administration may have positive effects for patients with social cognitive deficits but negative effects for patients with social cognitive bias. We conclude that future intervention studies should use methods such as signal detection to measure both deficit and bias parameters of social cognition and to evaluate potential individual and contextual moderators both within and between psychiatric diagnoses in order to determine for whom oxytocin treatment may be beneficial and for whom it may actually be harmful. Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.DOI: 10.1016/j.psychres.2014.11.048