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UCL Psychology and Language Sciences

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Systematic Examination of the influence of oxytocin on social abilities

A systematic examination of the influence of oxytocin on social abilities and body awareness in Anorexia nervosa

The aim of the current study is to test the effect of a single dose of intranasal OT on social and interoceptive processing in Anorexia Nervosa (AN). This is an experimental study designed to test social and affective cognitive tendencies and preferences of AN patients compared to control, and to investigate the psychological and neural mechanisms that underlie these behaviors. Oxytocin acts as a mere experimental means for testing these mechanisms. We predict that  OT will reduce difficulties in social processing and anxiety that play a key causal and maintaining role in the development of the illness and therefore reduce the negative impact of these factors in AN. It is important to define the mechanisms of action as this will allow us to target interventions and maximise their effect in future studies. For example, if oxytocin improves social processing it could be given as a treatment enhancer when working with family and emotional issues or with meal support, which are often very anxiety provoking and distressing for acutely ill individuals.