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The present paper summarizes functional imaging studies investigating the effects of intranasal oxytocin (OT) on brain responses to social stimuli. We aim to integrate previous research, point to unresolved issues and highlight perspectives for future studies. The studies so far have focused on identifying neural circuits underlying social information processing which are particularly sensitive to modulations by exogenous OT. Most consistently, stimulus-related responses of the amygdala and associated areas within the prefrontal and temporal cortices have been found to be modulated by OT administration. However, there are a number of unresolved issues related to the possible role of sex differences and hormonal status, genetic variability, and individual differences in socio-cognitive functioning. Future studies focusing on these open questions are expected to contribute to a more nuanced understanding of the role of the central OT system in humans and may provide the basis for novel treatment approaches for mental disorders characterized by social deficits.

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Journal Article

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