Oxytocin enhances gaze-following responses to videos of natural social behavior in adult male rhesus monkeys

P. T. Putnam, J. M. Roman, P. E. Zimmerman, Katalin M Gothard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Gaze following is a basic building block of social behavior that has been observed in multiple species, including primates. The absence of gaze following is associated with abnormal development of social cognition, such as in autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Some social deficits in ASD, including the failure to look at eyes and the inability to recognize facial expressions, are ameliorated by intranasal administration of oxytocin (IN-OT). Here we tested the hypothesis that IN-OT might enhance social processes that require active engagement with a social partner, such as gaze following. Alternatively, IN-OT may only enhance the perceptual salience of the eyes, and may not modify behavioral responses to social signals. To test this hypothesis, we presented four monkeys with videos of conspecifics displaying natural behaviors. Each video was viewed multiple times before and after the monkeys received intranasally either 50 IU of OT or saline. We found that despite a gradual decrease in attention to the repeated viewing of the same videos (habituation), IN-OT consistently increased the frequency of gaze following saccades. Further analysis confirmed that these behaviors did not occur randomly, but rather predictably in response to the same segments of the videos. These findings suggest that in response to more naturalistic social stimuli IN-OT enhances the propensity to interact with a social partner rather than merely elevating the perceptual salience of the eyes. In light of these findings, gaze following may serve as a metric for pro-social effects of oxytocin that target social action more than social perception.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-53
Number of pages7
JournalPsychoneuroendocrinology
Volume72
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016

Fingerprint

Social Behavior
Intranasal Administration
Oxytocin
Macaca mulatta
Haplorhini
Social Perception
Facial Expression
Saccades
Cognition
Primates

Keywords

  • Gaze following
  • Natural behavior
  • Oxytocin
  • Primate
  • Rhesus
  • Social

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

Cite this

Oxytocin enhances gaze-following responses to videos of natural social behavior in adult male rhesus monkeys. / Putnam, P. T.; Roman, J. M.; Zimmerman, P. E.; Gothard, Katalin M.

In: Psychoneuroendocrinology, Vol. 72, 01.10.2016, p. 47-53.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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