Overview: The stress-attenuating effects of oxytocin are well documented and there is some evidence that intranasal oxytocin can attenuate cortisol response in laboratory tasks, especially in clinical populations. Recently, a number of commercial intranasal Oxytocin products have appeared on the market (e.g. Oxytrust, Oxyluv), but there is little empirical research on the efficacy of these products.
Method: We conducted a double-blind randomized control trial with 37 healthy volunteer college students who received either 20 IUs of Oxytocin spray (n=19, 11 females) or placebo spray (n=18, 9 females). Stress was induced via the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST). Cardiovascular reactivity and recovery were monitored using Blood Pressure and Heart Rate. Anxiety and affectivity were assessed using the Positive and Negative Affect Scale (PANAS) and the State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) pre- and post-stress exposure.
Results: There was no significant difference between Oxytocin and placebo spray and cardiovascular reactivity and recovery. Females who received Oxytocin had a decrease in negative affect, while males had a significant increase in negative affect.
Conclusions: Intranasal oxytocin failed to reduce reactivity during a stress task, compared to placebo among our group of healthy participants. We found sex differences in the emotional response to stress tests as identified previously in the literature.