Intranasal oxytocin enhances EEG mu rhythm desynchronization during execution and observation of social action: An exploratory study

Fabrizia Festante, Pier Francesco Ferrari, Samuel G. Thorpe, Robert W. Buchanan, Nathan A. Fox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Intranasal administration of oxytocin (OT) has been found to facilitate prosocial behaviors, emotion recognition and cooperation between individuals. Recent electroencephalography (EEG) investigations have reported enhanced mu rhythm (alpha: 8–13 Hz; beta: 15–25 Hz) desynchronization during the observation of biological motion and stimuli probing social synchrony after the administration of intranasal OT. This hormone may therefore target a network of cortical circuits involved in higher cognitive functions, including the mirror neuron system (MNS). Here, in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, between-subjects exploratory study, we investigated whether intranasal OT modulates the cortical activity from sensorimotor areas during the observation and the execution of social and non-social grasping actions. Participants underwent EEG testing after receiving a single dose (24 IU) of either intranasal OT or placebo. Results revealed an enhancement of alpha - but not beta - desynchronization during observation and execution of social grasps, especially over central and parietal electrodes, in participants who received OT (OT group). No differences between the social and non-social condition were found in the control group (CTRL group). Moreover, we found a significant difference over the cortical central-parietal region between the OT and CTRL group only within the social condition. These results suggest a possible action of intranasal OT on sensorimotor circuits involved in social perception and action understanding, which might contribute to facilitate the prosocial effects typically reported by behavioral studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104467
Publication statusPublished - Sep 24 2019


  • Electroencephalogram
  • ERD
  • Grasping actions
  • Mirror neuron system
  • Oxytocin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry

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