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Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) is a GHB-/GABAB-receptor agonist. Reports from GHB abusers indicate euphoric, prosocial, and empathogenic effects of the drug. We measured the effects of GHB on mood, prosocial behavior, social and non-social cognition and assessed potential underlying neuroendocrine mechanisms. GHB (20 mg/kg) was tested in 16 healthy males, using a randomized, placebo-controlled, cross-over design. Subjective effects on mood were assessed by visual-analogue-scales and the GHB-Specific-Questionnaire. Prosocial behavior was examined by the Charity Donation Task, the Social Value Orientation test, and the Reciprocity Task. Reaction time, memory, empathy, and theory-of-mind were also tested. Blood plasma levels of GHB, oxytocin, testosterone, progesterone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), cortisol, aldosterone, and adrenocorticotropic-hormone (ACTH) were determined. GHB showed stimulating and sedating effects, and elicited euphoria, disinhibition, and enhanced vitality. In participants with low prosociality, the drug increased donations and prosocial money distributions. In contrast, social cognitive abilities such as emotion recognition, empathy, and theory-of-mind, and basal cognitive functions were not affected. GHB increased plasma progesterone, while oxytocin and testosterone, cortisol, aldosterone, DHEA, and ACTH levels remained unaffected. GHB has mood-enhancing and prosocial effects without affecting social hormones such as oxytocin and testosterone. These data suggest a potential involvement of GHB-/GABAB-receptors and progesterone in mood and prosocial behavior.

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