Oxytocin, love hormone, could cure shyness

The biochemical is known to enhance bonding especially among parents and children.  But now researchers have found it boosts the social skills of the shy - but has little effect on those who are naturally confident.

The finding could have implications for those with severe social deficiencies, often apparent in conditions like autism, reports the Telegraph.  Researchers at Israel's Seaver Autism Centre for Research and Treatment and Columbia University in US were examining whether the hormone could make us more understanding of others, according to the journal Psychological Science.

They conducted a test of a group of healthy adult men, giving them the hormone or a placebo through a nasal spray. Researchers then asked them to perform an "empathic accuracy task" - which measures their powers of reading the thoughts and feelings of others.

The scientists also measured the participants' social competency, using a test known as AQ which is usually used in autistic patients.  They found that oxytocin did improve powers of empathy - but only among those who were less socially proficient in the first place.

The more socially comfortable participants performed well on the empathetic task regardless of whether they were on oxytocin or placebo.  Jennifer Bartz of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, US said: "Oxytocin is widely believed to make all people more empathetic and understanding of others.

"Our study contradicts that. Instead, oxytocin appears to be helpful only for those who  are less socially proficient," Jennifer said.

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