Updated on 10 September 2013
Inhalation of love hormone oxytocin treats face blindness or Prosopagnosia, in which a person cannot identify the faces of their family or friends, or even their own face
Singapore: A study conducted by researchers at the Center for Face Processing Disorders at Bournemouth University has found that inhalation of love hormone oxytocin temporarily improved the conditions of patients suffering from Prosopagnosia or face blindness.
The study, which was led by Dr Sarah Bate and Dr Rachel Bennetts, has been presented at the British Psychological Society's Joint Cognitive and Developmental annual conference at the University of Reading.
The researchers tested twenty adults (10 with prosopagnosia and 10 control participants). Each participant visited the laboratory on two occasions, approximately two weeks apart. On one visit they inhaled the oxytocin nasal spray, and on the other visit they inhaled the placebo spray. The two sprays were prepared by an external pharmaceutical company in identical bottles, and neither the participants nor the researchers knew the identity of the sprays until the data had been analysed.
The researchers found that the participants with prosopagnosia achieved higher scores on both face processing tests in the oxytocin condition. Interestingly, no improvement was observed in the control participants, suggesting the hormone may be more effective in those with impaired face recognition systems. The initial ten participants with prosopagnosia had a developmental form of the condition.
Dr Bate said: "This study provides the first evidence that oxytocin may be used to temporarily improve face recognition in people with either developmental or acquired prosopagnosia. The effects of the hormone are thought to last 2-3 hours, and it may be that the nasal spray can be used to improve face recognition on a special occasion. However, much more research needs to be carried out, as we don't currently know whether there are benefits or risks associated with longer-term inhalation of the hormone."