Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 September 2018
Individuals with schizophrenia have deficits in social cognition that are associated with poor functional outcome. Unfortunately, current treatments result in only modest improvement in social cognition. Oxytocin, a neuropeptide with pro-social effects, has significant benefits for social cognition in the general population. However, studies examining the efficacy of oxytocin in schizophrenia have yielded inconsistent results. One reason for inconsistency may be that oxytocin has typically not been combined with psychosocial interventions. It may be necessary for individuals with schizophrenia to receive concurrent psychosocial treatment while taking oxytocin to have the context needed to make gains in social cognitive skills.
The current study tested this hypothesis in a 24-week (48 session) double-blind, placebo-controlled trial that combined oxytocin and Cognitive-Behavioral Social Skills Training (CBSST), which included elements from Social Cognition and Interaction Training (SCIT). Participants included 62 outpatients diagnosed with schizophrenia (placebo n = 31; oxytocin n = 31) who received 36 IU BID, with supervised administration 45 min prior to sessions on CBSST group therapy days. Participants completed a battery of measures administered at 0, 12, and 24 weeks that assessed social cognition.
CBSST generally failed to enhance social cognition from baseline to end of study, and there was no additive benefit of oxytocin beyond the effects of CBSST alone.
Findings suggest that combined CBSST and oxytocin had minimal benefit for social cognition, adding to the growing literature indicating null effects of oxytocin in multi-dose trials. Methodological and biological factors may contribute to inconsistent results across studies.
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