Healthy living

Nasal spray to combat shyness

Nasal spray to combat shyness Contains hormone oxytocin

Scientists have discovered that the hormone oxytocin can improve the social skills of people who are shy and lack confidence in social gatherings.

Oxytocin, often dubbed the "hormone of love", is a neurotransmitter that naturally occurs in the brain. The hormone is produced to help with muscle contractions during labour, but it is also thought to play a role in mother-baby bonding, social interaction and heightened feelings of trust and love.

Researchers from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Columbia University conducted a test on 27 healthy adult men who were given oxytocin or a placebo via a nasal spray.

They then took part in an empathic accuracy task, in which they watched videos of people discussing emotional events from their life and rated how they thought the people were feeling.

The findings showed that oxytocin improved empathic accuracy, but only among those who were already less socially proficient.

Professor Jennifer Bartz of Mount Sinai School of Medicine said: "Oxytocin is widely believed to make all people more empathic and understanding of others.

"Our study contradicts that. Instead, oxytocin appears to be helpful only for those who are less socially proficient.

"Our data show that oxytocin selectively improves social cognition in people who are less socially proficient, but had little impact on more socially proficient individuals."

"While more research is required, these results highlight the potential oxytocin holds for treating social deficits in people with disorders marked by deficits in social functioning like autism," Dr Bartz added.

The findings are published in the journal Psychological Science.

This article was published on Mon 27 September 2010

Image © Jason Stitt -

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