2014 IOCDF Grant

Effect of intranasal oxytocin on social cognition in body dysmorphic disorder

Angela Fang, MA

Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA)

Award Amount: $31,476

Oxytocin is a hormone that is associated with emotion recognition and social attentional processing. Given the difficulties in emotion regulation and social approach behavior present in people with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), the question of whether oxytocin could help with BDD symptoms arose.

This study by Ms. Fang and her team was the first to analyze the effects of oxytocin on people with BDD, as 18 people with BDD and 16 healthy controls received a dose of intranasal oxytocin or placebo and were given the Emotion Recognition Task (based on perceiving facial expressions and emotions) and Interpretation Questionnaire (based on interpreting ambiguous scenarios) afterwards. Compared to placebo, oxytocin had no significant impact on how participants scored on the Emotion Recognition Task, while leading participants with BDD to make more internal attributions when scenarios referred to others and not the self (with greater internal attributions further related to poor and delusional insight), as well as interpret scenarios as more threatening during the Interpretation Questionnaire. This study demonstrated that oxytocin did not improve emotional recognition and social attentional processing in people with BDD, even worsening relevant symptoms.


Resulting Publication:

*Fang, A., Lawson, E.A., & Wilhelm, S. (2019). Intranasal oxytocin modulates higher order social cognition in body dysmorphic disorder. Depression and Anxiety, 36(2), 153-161. doi:10.1002/da.22876