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Since the observation that oxytocin has key effects on social decision making, research on this exciting neuropeptide has doubled in volume: hundreds of studies have pursued the promise of a specific oxytocin action on high-level cognition and social function with wide potential translational implications (from autism to social anxiety to dementia). Here we review the evidence on whether the complex behavioural effects observed in humans after exogenous oxytocin administration build on changes in basic emotional information processing, in particular emotional facial expressions recognition, and attention and memory for emotionally-valenced stimuli.We observe that recent studies confirm a facilitatory effect of oxytocin to more accurate emotion processing, irrespective of emotion type. However, it remains unclear whether this action precedes, is independent of or even secondary to the neuropeptide promoting a greater salience of social stimuli. Overall, this growing research area has shown that oxytocin produces behavioural and neurofunctional outcomes that are highly dependent on the experimental context and on individual differences (gender, personality, life experiences). This poses an exciting challenge for future experimental medicine designs to address and unpack complex interactions between individual and context characteristic, which is needed for the development of more precise clinical applications.

Original publication




Journal article


J Psychopharmacol

Publication Date





1156 - 1159


Oxytocin, emotional processing, social function and depression, Animals, Attention, Cognition, Decision Making, Emotions, Facial Expression, Humans, Memory, Oxytocin, Recognition (Psychology), Social Perception