Acute oxytocin effects in inferring others’ beliefs and social emotions in people at clinical high risk for psychosis

Andre Schmidt, Paul Allen, Paolo Fusar-Poli

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Social deficits are key hallmarks of the Clinical High Risk for Psychosis (CHR-P) state and of established psychotic disorders, and contribute to impaired social functioning, indicating a potential target for interventions. However, current treatments do not significantly ameliorate social impairments in CHR-P individuals. Given its critical role in social behaviour and cognition, the oxytocinergic (OT) system is a promising target for novel interventions in CHR-P subjects. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover design, 30 CHR-P males were studied using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) on two occasions, once after 40IU self-administered intranasal OT and once after placebo. A modified version of the Sally-Anne task was used to assess brain activation during inferring others’ beliefs and social emotions. The Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test was acquired prior to the first scan to test whether OT effects were moderated by baseline social-emotional abilities. OT did not modulate behavioural performances but reduced activation in the bilateral inferior frontal gyrus compared with placebo while inferring others’ social emotions. Furthermore, the relationship between brain activation and task performance after OT administration was moderated by baseline social-emotional abilities. While task accuracy during inferring others’ social emotion increased with decreasing activation in the left inferior frontal gyrus in CHR-P individuals with low social-emotional abilities, there was no such relationship in CHR-P individuals with high social-emotional abilities. Our findings may suggest that acute OT administration enhances neural efficiency in the inferior frontal gyrus during inferring others’ social emotions in those CHR-P subjects with low baseline social-emotional abilities.

© 2020, The Author(s). This is an author produced version of a paper published in TRANSLATIONAL PSYCHIATRY uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self- archiving policy. The final published version (version of record) is available online at the link. Some minor differences between this version and the final published version may remain. We suggest you refer to the final published version should you wish to cite from it.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTranslational Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020

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