Characterization of the effects of oxytocin on fear recognition in patients with schizophrenia and in healthy controls

Meytal Fischer-Shofty, Simone G. Shamay-Tsoory, Yechiel Levkovitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Individuals who suffer from schizophrenia often show a marked deficit in recognition of emotional facial expressions, as part of broader impairment of social cognition. Research has shown that recognition of negative emotions, specifically fear recognition, is particularly impaired among patients with schizophrenia. Recently we reported that intranasal administration of OT (IN OT) increased the ability to correctly recognize fear in a group of healthy men. The aim of the current study was to examine the effects of IN OT administration on fear recognition among patients with schizophrenia. Based on previous research, we also sought to examine a possible selective effect of OT dependent on baseline performance, hypothesizing that IN OT would have a greater enhancement effect on less proficient individuals. It was thus hypothesized that patients will show more improvement in fear recognition following the administration of IN OT as compared to controls. Sixty six participants (31 schizophrenia patients, 35 healthy controls) were enrolled in the current study. All participants received treatment of a single dose of 24 IU IN OT and an equivalent amount of placebo, 1 week apart. The participants' ability to accurately recognize fear and happiness was evaluated using a face morphing task. Overall, as a group, both patients and healthy control participants were more accurate in recognizing fearful facial expressions, but not happy faces, following IN OT administration, as compared to their performance following placebo. IN OT did not differentially affect emotion recognition in patients and healthy controls. Yet, the results indicated a selective effect for IN OT, in which the hormone improves fear recognition only among individuals whose baseline performance was below the median, regardless of their psychiatric status.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberArticle 127
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Issue number7 JUL
StatePublished - 2013


  • Emotion recognition
  • Emotions
  • Fear
  • Oxytocin
  • Schizophrenia

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience


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