Adaptation to the social environment is critical for human survival. The neuropeptide oxytocin (OT), implicated in social cognition and emotions pivotal to sociality and well-being, is a promising pharmacological target for social and emotional dysfunction. We suggest here that the multifaceted role of OT in socio-affective processes improves the capability for social adaptation. We review OT effects on socio-affective processes, with a focus on OT-neuroimaging studies, to elucidate neuropsychological mechanisms through which OT promotes social adaptation. We also review OT-neuroimaging studies of individuals with social deficits and suggest that OT ameliorates impaired social adaptation by normalizing hyper- or hypo-brain activity. The social adaption model (SAM) provides an integrative understanding of discrepant OT effects and the modulations of OT action by personal milieu and context.
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