Music performance anxiety (MPA) is a persistent and distressing experience that involves apprehension linked with musical performance in public (individual or collective). Anxious individuals concentrate their anxiety in situations that involve social scrutiny, favoring distorted, dysfunctional, and negative interpretations of that situation followed by experiences of physiological symptoms associated with the exposure. The most commonly used substances in the pharmacological management of MPA are beta-blockers and benzodiazepines. However, these options are not fully efficient and cause relevant side effects that interfere mainly with performance. Therefore, investigations on alternative substances to treat MPA are highly opportune.
To assess the acute effects of oxytocin (OT) on physiological and cognitive variables during an experimental model of simulated performance.
We assessed 12 musicians with MPA pre-treated with intranasal OT (24 UI) or placebo in a crossover trial involving an experimental situation of public performance. Cognitive and physiological measures (heart rate, blood pressure, salivary cortisol) were recorded before/during performance (anticipatory performance anxiety). Statistical analyses were made using Stata Direct.
The results showed no effects of OT on physiological symptoms (P > 0.190). In respect to anticipatory anxiety, however, we found a tendency for OT to reduce negative cognitions associated with music performance (P = 0.06). No side effects were reported by musicians throughout the trial.
These tendencies, if confirmed through the expansion of the sample, have important implications for the practice of amateur and professional musicians who could benefit from interventions as the one described, possibly with a lesser impact of side effects.
The authors have not supplied their declaration of competing interest.