The Effect of Intranasal Oxytocin on Measures of Social Cognition in Schizophrenia: A Negative Report

J Psychiatr Brain Sci. 2019;4(1):e190001. doi: 10.20900/jpbs.20190001. Epub 2019 Jan 9.


Social cognition is impaired in patients with schizophrenia and is related to functional outcome. Neither current pharmacologic treatments for psychotic symptoms nor psychosocial interventions robustly improves measures of social cognition. Given this, the development of adjunctive treatments to improve functional outcome is a rational approach to treatment research in schizophrenia. The neuropeptide oxytocin is a candidate to treat deficits in social cognition due to its prosocial as well as anxiolytic effects. We report here results from a randomized, double-blind, parallel group 3 week clinical trial with daily administration of adjunctive intranasal oxytocin (20 IU twice daily) (n = 13) or placebo (n = 15). We examined the effect of oxytocin administration on measures of 4 domains of social cognition, as well as social functioning. After 3 weeks of oxytocin/placebo dosing, there was no significant difference favoring oxytocin between treatment groups in any outcome measure. These results add to the body of literature examining the effects of oxytocin on social cognition in schizophrenia. Further study is warranted.

Keywords: oxytocin; schizophrenia; social cognition.