(NaturalNews) A hormone nasal spray being tested as a treatment for "social phobia" causes people to continue trusting someone that they know has already cheated them once, according to a study conducted by researchers from Zurich University and published in the journal Neuron.
Researchers gave human volunteers a nasal spray of either a placebo or of the hormone oxytocin, which is known to play a role in social relationships, maternal bonding and sex. It has been nicknamed both the "cuddle chemical" and the "love hormone."
The volunteers then took part in a "trust game," where they were asked to contribute money to a human trustee who would invest it but who might or might not return the profits to them. Participants were then told whether the trustee had betrayed them or not, and asked to contribute money again.
While those who took the placebo did not reinvest with a trustee who had betrayed them, those who had inhaled oxytocin continued to do so.
"We can see that oxytocin has a very powerful effect," said lead researcher Thomas Baumgartner. "The subjects who received oxytocin demonstrated no change in their trust behavior, even though they were informed that their trust was not honored in roughly 50 percent of cases."
During the game, researchers took functional magnetic resonance imaging scans of the participants' brains. They found that those who inhaled oxytocin had reduced activity of the amygdala and an area of the striatum.
The amygdala is associated with processing fear and danger, and is believed to be hyperactive in those with social phobia. The relevant area of the striatum helps guide future behavior based on past rewards.
"We now know for the first time what exactly is going on in the brain when oxytocin increases trust," Baumgartner said. "Based on our results, we can now conclude that a lack of oxytocin is at least one of the causes for the fear experienced by social phobics. We hope and indeed we expect that we can improve their sociability by administering oxytocin."
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