Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

Now in our 7th year of bringing you beautiful imagery from biomedical science every day

20 August 2012

Sentimental Spray

Hormones can trigger profound changes both to behaviour and physiology. And now researchers show that they can affect our sensitivity to the emotions of our conspecifics. Oxytocin has long been known for its role in birth and breastfeeding. More recent investigations have hailed it as the ‘love’ hormone, helping to strengthen the bond between couples. Researchers have now added to its armoury by demonstrating the effects of the hormone on our ability to read emotions in peoples’ faces. Healthy students were given a nasal spray containing a dose of either saltwater or oxytocin. The hormone-sniffing subjects fared significantly better in deciphering emotions through facial expression. Those who found it most difficult to interpret emotions showed marked improvement after using the oxytocin spray. Researchers hope that the spray, which is already available on prescription, could help with disorders such as autism.

Written by Brona McVittie

Search The Archive

Submit An Image

What is BPoD?

BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

Read More

BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.