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Oxytocin enhances neural approach towards social and non-social stimuli of high personal relevance

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

Oxytocin (OT) plays a pivotal role in a variety of complex social behaviors by modulating approach-avoidance motivational tendencies, but recently, its social specificity has been challenged. Here, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study was conducted with forty young adult men, investigating the effect of a single-dose of OT (24 IU) on behavioral and neural approach-avoidance. Frontal alpha asymmetry, indexing neurophysiological approach-avoidance, was obtained from electroencephalographic recordings while participants were presented with a series of pictures, individually rated in terms of personal relevance (i.e., high versus low positive/negative emotional evocativeness) and categorized as social or non-social. Additionally, participants could prolong (approach) or shorten (avoid) the viewing-time of each picture, providing a measure of behavioral approach-avoidance. Intranasal OT enhanced both behavioral and neural approach (increased viewing-time), particularly towards negatively valenced pictures of both social and non-social nature, thus challenging the notion that OT's effects are specific to social stimuli. Neurally, OT specifically amplified approach-related motivational salience of stimuli that were self-rated to have high personal relevance, but irrespective of their social nature or rated affective valence (positive/negative). Together, these findings provide support to the General Approach-Avoidance Hypothesis of OT, suggesting a role of OT in amplifying the motivational salience of environmental stimuli with high (personal) relevance, but irrespective of their social/non-social nature.Clinical Trial Number: The study design was registered at ClinicalTrials.gov (NCT04443647; 23/06/2020; https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT04443647 ).
Issue: 1
Volume: 11
Number of pages: 10
Publication year:2021
Accessibility:Embargoed
Embargoed until:08/06/2022