Can oxytocin improve social functioning and interactions in schizophrenic patients?

Oxytocin is a neuropeptide produced by the hypothalamus (a part of the human brain), which acts as a neurotransmitter. This hormonealso known as the love hormoneis released during social bonding which produces a sense of happiness and warmth. Seeing its effect on the overall health and mood of a person, some researchers suggested that oxytocin may have beneficial effects on the positive as well as the negative symptoms of schizophrenia. 

However, according to recent studypublished in the Journal of Psychiatry and Brain Science, regular administration of intranasal neuropeptide oxytocin did not improve social bonding and functioning in adults with schizophrenia. 

4 spheres of social cognition observed in patients 

The study was conducted to observe the effectiveness of oxytocin as an additional treatment to improve social interaction in patients suffering from schizophrenia. The researchers selected 28 patients with either schizoaffective disorder or schizophrenia from the Maryland Psychiatric Center’s Treatment Research Program and Outpatient Research Program for the study. Of these, 13 randomly selected participants from the group were administered 20 IU of intranasal oxytocin twice daily. They were also administered a matching placebo. This process took place over a period of weeks. 

The effects of oxytocin were measured on the basis of spheres of social cognition: 

  • Emotional perception and recognition 
  • Theory of mind 
  • Social knowledge 
  • Attributional styles 

Even repeated doses did not influence social cognition 

Comparing the data collected after the 3-week period, the researchers found that there were no significant effects of oxytocin on social cognition. The findings were however of great value as they provided information and added to the limited data available on the effects of intranasal oxytocin on social cognition in patients of schizophrenia. 

Even after repeated doses of oxytocin in such patients, the researchers did not find any improvement in social cognition. They also suggested that according to the findings, there were no effects of oxytocin on any of the mentioned spheres or bases of social cognition in schizophrenia. 

However, the researchers argued that a very small number of participants were selected for the study hence the result was limited. Also because the study did not include the participants’ social insufficiencies and due to the short time period of the studythe complete spectrum of effects of oxytocin on social cognition in schizophrenia were not seen. 

Apart from the findings of this study, it was also observed that intranasal oxytocin did not display effectiveness on introspect and empathy in patients with schizophrenia. 


Schizophrenia, if left untreated, can affect an individual’s life, relationships, work, social circle, etc. The mental disorder has debilitating short- and long-term effects on patients. Therefore, if one has been diagnosed with schizophreniait is important that they seek immediate treatment from a professional schizophrenia treatment center. 

Treatment for mental health disorders including schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder is available at various reputed and licensed mental health facilities across the country. If you or a loved one is battling mental health disorder like schizophrenia and is looking for licensed treatment centers for schizophrenia, get in touch with 24/7 Mental Health Helpline. Call our 24/7 helpline 8556538178 and speak to a member of our team. You can also chat online to a representative to find the most suitable treatment center.