Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Hormone Improves Human Ability To Recognize Faces But Not Places

Date:
January 9, 2009
Source:
Society for Neuroscience
Summary:
Oxytocin, a hormone involved in child-birth and breast-feeding, helps people recognize familiar faces, according to new research in the Journal of Neuroscience. Study participants who had one dose of an oxytocin nasal spray showed improved recognition memory for faces, but not for inanimate objects.

Oxytocin, a hormone involved in child-birth and breast-feeding, helps people recognize familiar faces, according to new research in the January 7 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. Study participants who had one dose of an oxytocin nasal spray showed improved recognition memory for faces, but not for inanimate objects.

Related Articles


"This is the first paper showing that a single dose of oxytocin specifically improves recognition memory for social, but not for nonsocial, stimuli," said Ernst Fehr, PhD, an economist at the University of Zurich who has studied oxytocin's effect on trust and is unaffiliated with the new study. "The results suggest an immediate, selective effect of the hormone: strengthening neuronal systems of social memory," Fehr said.

In mice, oxytocin has been shown to be important in social recognition — remembering that another mouse is familiar. Unlike humans, who use visual cues, mice use smell to recognize and distinguish other mice.

In humans, oxytocin increases social behaviors like trust, but its role in social memory has been unclear. "Recognizing a familiar face is a crucial feature of successful social interaction in humans," said Peter Klaver, PhD, at the University of Zurich, the senior author of the new study, which was led by Ulrike Rimmele, PhD, at New York University. "In this study, we investigated for the first time the systematic effect of oxytocin on social memory in humans," Klaver said.

Klaver and colleagues had study participants use a nasal spray containing either oxytocin or a placebo and then showed them images of faces and inanimate objects, including houses, sculptures, and landscapes. Participants were given a surprise test when they returned the next day — they were shown some of the images they had seen the day before as well as some new ones and were asked to distinguish between images that were "new," images that they specifically "remembered" being presented, and images they recognized ("knew") as familiar but could not recall the presentation context.

Volunteers who used the oxytocin spray more accurately recognized the faces they had seen before than did those in the placebo group. However, the two groups did not differ in recognizing the other, nonsocial images, suggesting that oxytocin specifically improved social memory and that different mechanisms exist for social and nonsocial memory. Further analysis showed that oxytocin selectively improved the discrimination of new and familiar faces — participants with oxytocin were less likely to mistakenly characterize unfamiliar faces as familiar. "Together, our data indicate that oxytocin in humans immediately strengthens the capability to correctly recognize and discriminate faces," Klaver said.

"The study highlights the parallels in social information processing in mice and man, and adds further support to the notion that oxytocin plays a critical role," said Larry Young, PhD, at Emory University, an expert on oxytocin who is unaffiliated with the current study. "This has important implications for disorders such as autism, where social information processing is clearly impaired," Young said.

The research was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation, the Swiss Federal Institute of Sports, and the University of Zurich.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Society for Neuroscience. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Society for Neuroscience. "Hormone Improves Human Ability To Recognize Faces But Not Places." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 January 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090106170744.htm>.
Society for Neuroscience. (2009, January 9). Hormone Improves Human Ability To Recognize Faces But Not Places. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090106170744.htm
Society for Neuroscience. "Hormone Improves Human Ability To Recognize Faces But Not Places." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090106170744.htm (accessed November 24, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Monday, November 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers find that as people approach new decades in their lives they make bigger life decisions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
You Don't Have To Be Alcohol Dependent To Need Treatment

You Don't Have To Be Alcohol Dependent To Need Treatment

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 9 out of 10 excessive drinkers in the country are not alcohol dependent. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Complicated Job Might Keep Your Brain Young

Your Complicated Job Might Keep Your Brain Young

Newsy (Nov. 20, 2014) Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found the more complex your job is, the sharper your cognitive skills will likely be as you age. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins