The Role of Intranasal Oxytocin on Social Cognition: an Integrative Human Lifespan Approach


Purpose of Review: This narrative review synthesizes research from the last two decades on the modulatory role of intranasal OT administration (IN-OT) on social cognition in early life, young/middle adulthood, and older adulthood. Advances and knowledge gaps are identified, and future research directions are discussed within an integrative human lifespan framework to guide novel research on IN-OT and social cognition.

Recent Findings: Current evidence regarding IN-OT modulation of social-cognitive processes, behavior, and related neurocircuitry is mixed with some studies suggesting benefits (e.g., improved social perception/interactions, emotion processing) depending on contextual (e.g., social stimuli) and interindividual factors (e.g., age, sex, clinical status). Current research, however, is limited by a focus on isolated life phases, males, and select clinical populations as well as a lack of standardized protocols.

Summary: This literature-based reflection proposes that greater generalizability of findings and scientific advancement on social-cognitive modulation via IN-OT requires standardized, multi-method, longitudinal, and cross-sequential assessments in well-powered, well-controlled, and representative samples in line with an integrative lifespan approach, which considers development as a lifelong dynamic process involving both change and stability characterized by the interplay between genetic, neurobiological, and socio-behavioral factors.

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