Oxytocin, a hormone known to influence a variety of emotional responses including attachment and social engagement, appears to be helpful as an adjunct to social-cognition training for some patients with schizophrenia, said Stephen Marder, M.D., of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience at UCLA yesterday at the International Congress on Schizophrenia Research in Orlando, Fla.
Marder made his remarks during a symposium on “Pharmacological Approaches for Facilitating Non-Pharmacologic Treatments.” He outlined evidence for impairment in social cognition in schizophrenia and its relationship to poorer outcome, as well as studies indicating that training can improve social cognition and evidence for the efficacy of oxytocin in enhancing empathic accuracy and recognition of positive and negative social cues. Marder explained that social cognition consists of “lower level” cognitive skills—such as recognition of facial cues—and “higher order” skills such as the ability to make emotional inferences and recognize sarcasm, for instance. He then described studies at UCLA in which schizophrenia patients were administered oxytocin prior to receiving social-cognition training. The findings were intriguing: while the skills training was primarily useful for lower-level social skills, the oxytocin appeared to enhance the higher-level skills of drawing accurate inferences from social cues and empathic accuracy.
APA, Psychiatric News Alert