A dose-finding study of oxytocin using neurophysiological measures of social processing

Jonathan K. Wynn, Michael F. Green, Gerhard Hellemann, Eric A. Reavis, Stephen R. Marder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Recent interest has focused on oxytocin (OT), a neurotransmitter that promotes social processing, to improve social functioning in people with schizophrenia. However, little information is available regarding the doses of OT that are effective for influencing social processing in the brain (i.e., target engagement). In this study, we conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over dose ranging study of OT. In total 47 patients with schizophrenia were randomly assigned to one of eight doses of OT (8, 12, 24, 36, 48, 60, 72, or 84 IU). Patients completed two social processing tasks: one electroencephalography (EEG) task, a biological motion Mu-suppression task (i.e., identifying the gender, emotion, or direction of walking of point-light animations of human movement); and one pupillometry task, pupil dilation in response to viewing affective faces. Participants completed these tasks twice, one week apart, and were randomly administered drug or placebo intranasally 30 min prior to each session. Mu-suppression, i.e., suppression of oscillations in the 8–12 Hz range over central electrodes in response to social stimuli, was significantly enhanced at doses of 36 and 48 IU in comparison to placebo, but not at other doses. Significant pupil dilation was observed in response to faces vs. non-face stimuli, though there were no drug effects at any dose. Results suggest that OT affects central measures of social information processing in patients with schizophrenia and is optimal at a mid-range dose (36–48 IU). These results provide dosing guidance for future studies of OT to be used to enhance social processing in people with schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-294
Number of pages6
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This material is the result of work supported with resources and the use of facilities at the University of California, Los Angeles Translational Research Center for Neuropsychiatry, the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System (VAGLAHS) VISN 22 Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center (SRM, Director), and the VAGLAHS Research Enhancement Award Program on Enhancing Community Integration for Homeless Veterans (MFG, Director). We thank Kumari Karunaratne and Jennifer Hoy for assistance with patient management and data collection. Funding support for this project was provided by NIMH grant 4R21MH107564 to S.R. M. The funding agency had no role in the design of the study, collection and analysis of data, or decision to publish. The contents do not represent the views of the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs or the United States Government.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, American College of Neuropsychopharmacology.


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