Oxytocin is a neuropeptide made in the brain that plays a critical role in female reproductive functions, facilitating childbirth and breastfeeding. It also has been shown to have effects on behavior, both amorous, for which it has been dubbed the "love hormone," and in more general social interactions. The chemical's effect on social behavior has led researchers at Norway's Institute of Clinical Medicine (Oslo) to test its potential for treating mental illness. They are using a new intranasal drug-delivery device developed by OptiNose, also headquartered in Oslo with offices in Yardley, PA, and in the United Kingdom, which enables low doses of the hormone to be administered deep within the nasal cavity.
In tests on 16 healthy male volunteers, research showed that only low doses of oxytocin produced an effect on perception of social signals, according to Ole A. Andreassen, MD, PhD, Professor, NORMENT - KG Jebsen Centre for Psychosis Research, Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Oslo, and Division of Mental Health and Addiction, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway. He co-authored a paper on the subject in Translational Psychiatry. High doses could, in fact, exacerbate the condition, researchers say.