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Scientists create men with emotional sensitivity

The Local · 29 Apr 2010, 14:13

Published: 29 Apr 2010 14:13 GMT+02:00

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Oxytocin, a neurotransmitter that floods a woman’s system while she is giving birth and is also involved in triggering milk production for breast feeding, can also improve men’s ability to empathise with other people.

It also sensitises men to so-called “social indicators” such as approving or rebuking facial expressions – the faces that might appear, respectively, when flowers are purchased or the toilet seat is left up.

The scientists from the University of Bonn, along with colleagues from the Babraham Institute at Cambridge University in Britain, gave 24 male subjects an Oxytocin nasal spray and another 24 subjects a placebo.

They then showed the subjects a series of emotionally charged pictures, such as a weeping child, a girl hugging a cat, and a man grieving. The men then had to say to what extent they identified with the people in the pictures.

“The Oxytocin group recorded significantly higher emotional empathy values than the placebo group,” said René Hurlemann from the University of Bonn’s Psychiatry Clinic.

Although the placebo group was perfectly able to rationally interpret the expressions on the faces of the people pictured, the shot of Oxytocin gave the other men greater emotional empathy – in fact allowing them to reach the considerably higher levels of empathy usually seen in women.

In a second experiment, the subjects had to solve a simple perception test. When the right answer was given, an approving face appeared on the monitor, while for a wrong answer, a disapproving face appeared.

Alternatively, the answers were followed by the display of colours – green for a right answer and red for a wrong one.

“The rate of learning for both groups was higher when the facial expression feedback followed,” said Keith Kendrick from the Babraham Institute. “But once again, the Oxytocin group clearly responded better to the facial expression feedback than the placebo group.”

The amygdala, a part of the brain that deals with emotional situations – including fear – seems to play a key role, the researchers said.

Oxytocin is a hormone that plays an important role in triggering cervical dilation during childbirth and is instrumental in the formation of the emotional bond between a mother and a newborn child. It is also thought to be connected to such emotions as love and trust. Large amounts of it are also produced when a woman has an orgasm.

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“Our study shows for the first time that emotional empathy is modulated by Oxytocin and that something similar also applies to the learning process for social indicators,” Hurlemann said.

The study was published in the most recent edition of the Journal of Neuroscience.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

20:50 April 29, 2010 by William Thirteen
i prefer OxyContin
21:52 April 29, 2010 by wmm208
MrNosey - German men are already gay. They must have done that experiment years ago...
02:08 April 30, 2010 by Logic Guy
Well, this is very interesting indeed. But what will come of it? Are they going to start giving men injections of Oxytocin?

Chemicals can certainly alter behavoir. There is no doubt about that. But at what risks?

How about the implimentation of a Psychology based upon non-emotionalism? Not only would it cause men to be more kind and considerate, it would create an entirely new, much more intellectually advanced species.
03:57 April 30, 2010 by wmm208
"a Psychology based upon non-emotionalism" = Germans
09:44 April 30, 2010 by auslanderus
I have an idea, have the Army's in Irag, Afganistan do an areal spray over the Taliban and Al-Quada. then they will stop fighting everyone.
10:37 April 30, 2010 by dbert4
How about slipping some of that in the Cheney family coffee? Both Dick and his scare daughter could use a healthy dose.
11:58 April 30, 2010 by scout1067
Emotional readjustment to reform "criminals" and men that are too aggressive is probably just around the corner. Then all men will be like the pansies on Sex and the City.
12:18 April 30, 2010 by Prufrock2010
If it works on Cheney I'll believe it. Until then...nah.
13:55 April 30, 2010 by LancashireLad
Logic guy you spout the funniest crap.

Kindness and consideration come from emotion. Lack of emotion would mean you are doing something because logic tells you to. That basically means "I'll only do this because it logically benefits me."

The ability to follow logical rules does not equate to intellectual advancement. Indeed the exact opposite is true. Intelligence enables one to include not just stimuli from the 5 senses but also emotion and the ability to read between the lines and go further than the immediate stimuli.

Trust me, Vulcans would not actually have been how Spock was protrayed.
16:19 April 30, 2010 by Talonx
Though the findings are interesting, it is not clear as to if low oxytocin leads to a culture of less empathic men or vice versa plus positive feedback.
00:04 May 1, 2010 by Logic Guy
Well, LancashireLad still doesn't understand.

History has clealy proven, over and over again, that humans do very destructive things when they become angry and when their desires are not fulfilled.

Although I'm not Buddhist, I do however believe heavily in their non-emotionalism. How often do you hear of them doing crazy things?

Anger, fear, desire and that other stuff is simply bad for human beings.
09:33 May 1, 2010 by Talonx
@Logic guy

Without emotion it would be impossible to gauge one's own health. It would be impossible to have an interpretive awareness of the world and impossible to look for beauty and truth. There would be no such thing as 'reward' and we would have little motivation to do anything. It is thankfully quite impossible a situation that you dream up. And the sometimes-Buddhist measure of non-attachement (as it is actually called) has less to do with emotions and more to do with understanding that all things are impermanent.
15:57 May 1, 2010 by Bruno53
Haven't the Germans learned past experiments with human experiments? I am totally AGAINST these unethical experiments.
19:56 May 1, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Talonx --

Very well said and accurate with respect to Buddhist teachings. Unfortunately, consider your intended audience's inherent inability to grasp what you're talking about.
08:33 May 2, 2010 by Talonx
@ Bruno53

Don't panic, no experiments are allowed to proceed without the informed consent of those taking part. This is both law and more importantly packed into the head of every researcher who works with people. These are international standards following the catastrophe of the Prison Experiment in the U.S. and the experience of U.S., Soviet, Nazi and Imperial Japanese human experimentation during the cold war and WWII respective to each of the two.
22:01 May 3, 2010 by LancashireLad
Don't know if anyone's still followoing this, but ...

"History has clealy proven, over and over again, that humans do very destructive things when they become angry and when their desires are not fulfilled"

No. Animals do destructive things ....... Humans can just do it better.

"Anger, fear, desire and that other stuff is simply bad for human beings"

No, it's simply natural for humans beings.

You cannot remove emotion from humans as what would remain would be robots not humans.
04:07 May 4, 2010 by wenddiver
So if we we subtract Oxycontin will women sit on their couches watching football and start lieing abut the size of the last fish they caught.
13:40 May 4, 2010 by carliecutie
I don't believe that just because a man is sensitive, then he is gay. Quite the opposite. Scientists are genetically engineering the perfeect husband.
18:26 May 6, 2010 by HerrHess
Is there a study where women were given testosterone? If they did, I bet women would then make correct decisions, not whine about their best friends and wouldn't need a jacket in 80 degree weather because they're "cold".

Interesting how we waste time and money on bullshit studies like this and not on curing major diseases. Utilize those resources for cancer research.
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