Objective: The aim of the present study was to explore the role of noradrenaline on the social behaviour of healthy volunteers when they were interacting with a familiar person, their flatmate. Interaction with the flatmate was explored in a cooperative game situation.
Methods: Ten pairs of same-sex healthy volunteer flatmates aged 18-25 years were recruited for the experiment. All volunteers gave written informed consent and the study was approved by the institutional ethical committee. A randomised, double blind, placebo-controlled crossover trial of reboxetine versus placebo was conducted. In each of the 10 pairs of volunteers, one (subject) volunteered to take the tablets and the other (flatmate) received no treatment. Reboxetine (4 mg/bd) and placebo were administered orally as identical capsules for 2 weeks. The subjects were randomly assigned to receive either reboxetine or placebo first and there was a two-week washout period following the first treatment. At baseline and the end of each treatment, they filled in the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), Social Adapation Self-Evaluation Scale (SASS), and Aggression Questionnaire (AQ). Then, they were instructed to play the Tangrams game. This task elicits face-valid social behaviours such as cooperation, giving commands and unilateral grasps.
Results: Analysis of covariance showed that there was a statistical trend for reboxetine treatment to increase commands (p=0.055).
Conclusion: This study presents preliminary evidence that two weeks' enhancement of noradrenaline transmission induced by reboxetine makes healthy volunteers more self-confident and assertive.