Intranasal oxytocin enhances emotion recognition from dynamic facial expressions and leaves eye-gaze unaffected

Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2012 Apr;37(4):475-81. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2011.07.015. Epub 2011 Sep 19.


Previous studies have shown that oxytocin improves the encoding and recognition of facial expressions, which has been proposed to be mediated by an increased exploration of the eye region during face processing. In the present study, we used eye tracking to assess visual attention to the eye region while participants performed a dynamic facial emotion recognition task. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled between-subjects design participants received 24 IU intranasal oxytocin (n = 23) or a placebo (n = 24). Although oxytocin administration had no effect on participants' visual scanning of emotional faces, it generally enhanced recognition performance, as the oxytocin group recognized emotional expressions at lower intensity levels. These findings suggest that oxytocin-induced improvement of facial emotion recognition is independent of modulations in overt visual attention.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Intranasal
  • Adult
  • Attention / drug effects
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Emotions*
  • Eye Movements / drug effects*
  • Facial Expression*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Oxytocin / administration & dosage
  • Oxytocin / blood
  • Oxytocin / pharmacology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Recognition, Psychology / drug effects*


  • Oxytocin