Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
, 26 (5), 474-484

Could Intranasal Oxytocin Be Used to Enhance Relationships? Research Imperatives, Clinical Policy, and Ethical Considerations


Could Intranasal Oxytocin Be Used to Enhance Relationships? Research Imperatives, Clinical Policy, and Ethical Considerations

Olga A Wudarczyk et al. Curr Opin Psychiatry.


Purpose of review: Well-functioning romantic relationships are important for long-term health and well being, but they are often difficult to sustain. This difficulty arises (in part) because of an underlying tension between our psychobiological natures, culture/environment, and modern love and relationship goals. One possible solution to this predicament is to intervene at the level of psychobiology, enhancing partners' interpersonal connection through neurochemical modulation. This article focuses on a single, promising biobehavioral sub-system for such intervention: the attachment system, based largely upon the expression of the neuropeptide oxytocin. Could the exogenous administration of oxytocin - under the right conditions - be used to facilitate relational or marital well being?

Recent findings: If so, it would require considerable forethought. Recent research complicates the popular image of oxytocin as a universal social enhancer or 'love hormone' and shows that it may exert a variety of different effects, at different dosages, on different people, under different circumstances. Accordingly, we discuss what is known about oxytocin, including its 'good' and 'bad' effects on human behavior and on higher-order functional processes.

Summary: Building upon animal-model, human preclinical, and clinical findings, we outline a proposal for the use of oxytocin in the therapeutic neuroenhancement of contemporary romantic relationships. Highlighting key targets for future research along the way, we then conclude by discussing some of the clinical and ethical considerations that would pertain to the implementation of this knowledge in applied settings.

Similar articles

See all similar articles

Cited by 6 PubMed Central articles

  • Addicted to Love: What Is Love Addiction and When Should It Be Treated?
    BD Earp et al. Philos Psychiatr Psychol 24 (1), 77-92. PMID 28381923.
    Recent research suggests that romantic love can be literally addictive. Although the exact nature of the relationship between love and addiction has been described in inc …
  • Oxytocin During Development: Possible Organizational Effects on Behavior
    TV Miller et al. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne) 6, 76. PMID 26042087. - Review
    Oxytocin (Oxt) is a neurohormone known for its physiological roles associated with lactation and parturition in mammals. Oxt can also profoundly influence mammalian socia …
  • Bisphenol A and Phthalate Endocrine Disruption of Parental and Social Behaviors
    CS Rosenfeld. Front Neurosci 9, 57. PMID 25784850. - Review
    Perinatal exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) can induce promiscuous neurobehavioral disturbances. Bisphenol A and phthalates are two widely prevalent and p …
  • Neuroreductionism About Sex and Love
    J Savulescu et al. Think (Lond) 13 (38), 7-12. PMID 25309130.
    "Neuroreductionism" is the tendency to reduce complex mental phenomena to brain states, confusing correlation for physical causation. In this paper, we illustrate the dan …
  • The Medicalization of Love
    BD Earp et al. Camb Q Healthc Ethics 24 (3), 323-36. PMID 24937632.
    Pharmaceuticals or other emerging technologies could be used to enhance (or diminish) feelings of lust, attraction, and attachment in adult romantic partnerships. Althoug …
See all "Cited by" articles

Publication types