A nasal spray can make men more in tune with other people's feelings, say a team of German and UK researchers. They found that inhaling the "cuddle hormone" oxytocin made men just as empathetic as women. The study in 48 volunteers also showed that the spray boosted the ability to learn from positive feedback.
Writing in the Journal of Neuroscience, the researchers said the spray may be useful for boosting behaviour therapy in conditions such as schizophrenia.
Oxytocin is a naturally produced hormone, most well-known for triggering labour pains and promoting bonding between mother and baby. But it has also been shown to play a role in social relations, sex and trust.
Study leader Professor Keith Kendrick, a neuroscientist at Cambridge University, said by giving the hormone nasally, it quickly reaches the brain.
In the first part of the study, half the men received a nose spray containing oxytocin and half were given a dummy spray. They were then shown photos of emotionally charged situations including a crying child, a girl hugging her cat, and a grieving man, and were asked questions about the depth of feeling they had towards the subjects. Those who had the hormone spray had markedly higher levels of empathy - of a similar magnitude to those only usually seen in women who are naturally more sensitive to the feelings of others. Neither group were able to accurately guess whether they had received the oxytocin or the dummy spray.
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