Oxytocin, Emotions and Mirror Neurons

Overview

The purpose of this project is to investigate the possible effect of intranasally administered Oxytocin (OT) on specific mirror neuron areas in human brain. The mirror neuron system (MNS) is thought to be involved in action perception and understanding, and may also underlie more complex cognitive processes such as imitation. We will use electroencephalographic (EEG) investigations to examine brain activity while participants complete two different tasks, consisting of the observation and imitation of emotional facial expressions (video presented) and the observation and execution of simple grasping actions (live presented), respectively. In addition, before the beginning of the EEG recording session, subjects will be randomly assigned to two different groups (Oxytocin or Placebo group) and will receive a dose of either intranasal Oxytocin or Placebo solution. Oxytocin is a polypeptide hormone that plays a critical role in social behavior. We will identify mu and beta rhythm from the ongoing EEG and examine suppression as a function of emotion and goal directed action perception and imitation/execution.

Full Title of Study: “The Influence of Oxytocin on the Mirror Neuron System: Developing Brain Imaging Paradigms for Future Therapeutic Interventions”

Study Type

  • Study Type: Interventional
  • Study Design
    • Allocation: Randomized
    • Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
    • Primary Purpose: Basic Science
    • Masking: Triple (Participant, Investigator, Outcomes Assessor)
  • Study Primary Completion Date: August 2016

Interventions

  • Drug: Oxytocin
    • The experimental oxytocin group will receive 24 international units (IU) of oxytocin using an intranasal administration (self-administered nasal spray) one time before the experimental session
  • Other: Placebo
    • The placebo comparator group will receive sterile saline through intranasal administration, consisting of the same salt solution in which the hormone will be dissolved , but lacking the hormone itself.

Arms, Groups and Cohorts

  • Experimental: Oxytocin
    • The experimental oxytocin group will receive 24 international units (IU) of oxytocin using an intranasal administration (self-administered nasal spray) one time before the experimental session.
  • Placebo Comparator: Placebo
    • The placebo comparator group will receive sterile saline through intranasal administration, consisting of the same salt solution in which the hormone will be dissolved , but lacking the hormone itself.

Clinical Trial Outcome Measures

Primary Measures

  • EEG mu rhythm suppression
    • Time Frame: Before oxytocin/placebo administration and 45 minutes after
    • The EEG mu rhythm suppression is an index of the human mirror neuron system (alpha and lower beta band activity (8-13 and ~20Hz) recorded over the sensorimotor cortex. EEG will be recorded during the performance of an emotion imitation task (Carr et al., 2003) in which participants will be asked to imitate and internally generate facial emotions seen on a computer screen, or to simply observe, as well as performing a simple grasping action task. Changes in the mu suppression while the performance of these tasks, before and after oxytocin/placebo administration, will be the primary outcome measure.

Participating in This Clinical Trial

Inclusion Criteria

  • Right-hand dominant
  • Sufficient spoken English so as to be able to complete testing validly and give informed consent

Exclusion Criteria

  • Currently taking any psychotropic or cognition enhancing medication
  • History of schizophrenia or any other psychotic disorder, including Bipolar Disorder
  • Family history of psychosis
  • Neurological disease or clinically significant head injury
  • Physical disability that substantially impairs motor function
  • Current diagnosis of polydypsic-induced hyponatremia
  • Substance dependence or abuse in the past 6 months

Gender Eligibility: Male

Minimum Age: 18 Years

Maximum Age: 30 Years

Are Healthy Volunteers Accepted: Accepts Healthy Volunteers

Investigator Details

  • Lead Sponsor
    • University of Maryland, Baltimore
  • Collaborator
    • University of Maryland, College Park
  • Provider of Information About this Clinical Study
    • Principal Investigator: Robert Buchanan, Interim Director, Maryland Psychiatric Research Center – University of Maryland, Baltimore
  • Overall Official(s)
    • Robert W Buchanan, MD, Principal Investigator, University of Maryland, College Park
    • Nathan Fox, PhD, Study Director, University of Maryland, College Park

References

Carr L, Iacoboni M, Dubeau MC, Mazziotta JC, Lenzi GL. Neural mechanisms of empathy in humans: a relay from neural systems for imitation to limbic areas. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Apr 29;100(9):5497-502. Epub 2003 Apr 7.

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