Meta-analysis of the effects of intranasal oxytocin on interpretation and expression of emotions

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Accurate interpretation and appropriate expression of emotions are key aspects of social-cognition. Several mental disorders are characterised by transdiagnostic difficulties in these areas and, recently, there has been increasing interest in exploring the effects of oxytocin on social-emotional functioning. This review consists of 33 studies. Fifteen of the studies included people with autism spectrum disorder, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, frontotemporal dementia, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and opioid and alcohol dependence. We conducted ten meta-analyses examining the effects of intranasal oxytocin on expression of emotions, emotional theory of mind, sensitivity to recognise basic emotions, and recognition of basic emotions. A single dose of intranasal oxytocin significantly improved the recognition of basic emotions, particularly fear, and increased the expression of positive emotions among the healthy individuals. Oxytocin did not significantly influence theory of mind or the expression of negative emotions among the healthy individuals. Finally, intranasal oxytocin did not significantly influence interpretation or expression of emotions among the clinical populations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125–144
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Early online date30 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017


  • Oxytocin
  • Theory of mind
  • Emotion recognition
  • Emotion expression


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