Oxytocin-augmented social cognitive skills training in schizophrenia

Academic Article


  • Impairments in social cognition are common in schizophrenia and predict poor functional outcome. The purpose of this proof-of-concept randomized, parallel group clinical trial was to assess whether intranasal oxytocin (OT), given before social cognitive training, enhances learning of social cognitive skills. Twenty seven male outpatients with schizophrenia participated in a 6-week (12 session) training on social cognitive skills. Training focused on three domains: facial affect recognition, social perception, and empathy. Subjects were randomly assigned (double blind) to receive either intranasal OTor placebo 30 min before each session. Participants did not receive OT between sessions or on the day of assessments. We evaluated scores on social-cognition measures, as well as clinical symptoms and neurocognition, at baseline, 1 week following the final training session, and 1 month later. Our prespecified primary outcome measure was a social-cognition composite score comprised of five individual measures. There were main effects of time (indicating improvement across the combined-treatment groups) on the social-cognition composite score at both 1 week and 1 month following completion of training. Subjects receiving OT demonstrated significantly greater improvements in empathic accuracy than those receiving placebo at both posttreatment and 1 month follow up. There were no OT-related effects for the other social cognitive tests, clinical symptoms, or neurocognition. This study provides initial support for the idea that OT enhances the effectiveness of training when administered shortly before social cognitive training sessions. The effects were most pronounced on empathic accuracy, a high-level social cognitive process that is not easily improved in current social cognitive remediation programs. © 2014 American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. All rights reserved.
  • Authors

    Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Davis MC; Green MF; Lee J; Horan WP; Senturk D; Clarke AD; Marder SR
  • Start Page

  • 2070
  • End Page

  • 2077
  • Volume

  • 39
  • Issue

  • 9