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Oxytocin, but not vasopressin, impairs social cognitive ability among individuals with higher levels of social anxiety: a randomized controlled trial.

  • Author(s): Tabak, Benjamin A
  • Meyer, Meghan L
  • Dutcher, Janine M
  • Castle, Elizabeth
  • Irwin, Michael R
  • Lieberman, Matthew D
  • Eisenberger, Naomi I
  • et al.
Abstract

Individuals with social anxiety are characterized by a high degree of social sensitivity, which can coincide with impairments in social cognitive functioning (e.g. theory of mind). Oxytocin (OT) and vasopressin (AVP) have been shown to improve social cognition, and OT has been theorized as a potential therapeutic agent for individuals with social anxiety disorder. However, no study has investigated whether these neuropeptides improve social cognitive ability among socially anxious individuals. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled, between-subjects design we investigated whether social anxiety moderated the effects of OT or AVP (vs placebo) on social working memory (i.e. working memory that involves manipulating social information) and non-social working memory. OT vs placebo impaired social working memory accuracy in participants with higher levels of social anxiety. No differences were found for non-social working memory or for AVP vs placebo. Results suggest that OT administration in individuals with higher levels of social anxiety may impair social cognitive functioning. Randomized-controlled trial registration: NCT01680718.

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