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Oxytocin Seems Beneficial for Patients With Anorexia

Two studies show benefits in attentional vigilance to eating, fat shape stimuli; social emotional stimuli

MONDAY, March 17, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- For females with anorexia nervosa, oxytocin attenuates attentional vigilance to eating and fat shape stimuli and affects attentional processes to social emotional stimuli, according to two studies published online in Psychoneuroendocrinology and PLOS ONE.

Youl-Ri Kim, M.D., Ph.D., from Inje University in Seoul, South Korea, and colleagues examined the impact of oxytocin (administered intranasally) on attentional processes for eating, shape, and weight stimuli among 64 female subjects (31 with anorexia nervosa and 33 controls). The researchers observed significant reductions in the attentional biases toward eating-related stimuli and negative shape stimuli among those with anorexia nervosa who were under the influence of intranasal oxytocin.

In a second study, Kim and colleagues administered intranasal oxytocin or placebo to 64 female subjects (31 with anorexia nervosa and 33 controls), followed by a visual detection probe task with faces depicting anger, disgust, and happiness. The researchers found that there was attentional bias to disgust stimuli in both groups under the placebo condition, which was reduced in the oxytocin condition (moderate effect for those with anorexia nervosa). In the patient group, avoidance of angry faces was observed under the placebo condition, and vigilance was seen in the control group; oxytocin moderated both of these information-processing responses, producing increased vigilance in those with anorexia nervosa. No attentional response was elicited by happy/smiling faces.

"We conclude that patients with anorexia nervosa appear to use different strategies/circuits to emotionally process anger from their healthy counterparts," Kim and colleagues write in the second study.

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