A study was conducted by Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, M.D., Ph.D., NIMH Genes Cognition and Psychosis Program, and found that hormone oxytocin weeks the brain's fear centre. When a brain imaging study was done at National Institutes of Health's (NIH) & National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) it revealed that oxytocin boosts trust and reduces the functioning of amygdale (fear circuitry) and disrupts its relay station as a response to the fear stimuli.
Previous analysis of this chemical with the animals proved that it has an important role in complex emotions, social behavior, social recognition, attachments & aggressions.
New light have been thrown on the hormone oxytocin and its analogue for use in the treatment of various disorders which have phobia towards the society as one of its central symptoms.
Previously according to research conducted by a Swiss scientist who reported that oxytocin increased trust in humans. A British research also reported that increased amygdale activity led to decreased trust. Based on all these and his research he reported that oxytocin worked by decreasing the activity of amygdale and fear transmitting process and augments trust.
The participants were 15 healthy men. They were made to smell oxytocin or placebo and then went for a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scan. In the scanner various activities known to increase amygdale was performed like angry or fearful faces and threatening scenes.
After the scan was taken it showed that threatening pictures increased the activity of amygdale who took placebo and reduced activity in the case of oxytocin. It was very clearly and distinctly seen in the case of threatening pictures. This proved that oxytocin can be used for regulating social fear.
Researchers also suggest that since oxytocin is known to prevent transmission of signals to the upper brain stem which shows the fear response it can be used to treat genetic disease like autism. Autism is associated with social fear and the characteristic symptom is that the patient avoids looking at the others face.
Researchers have also found that these autism patients have high activity of amygdale and hence fear facing other humans.
Further research has to be done on the effect of oxytocin on women, use of oxytocin as a treatment modality in other relevant fear disorders, study on the closely related hormone vasopressin and how mutations in these two hormones affect the brain.