Converging evidence demonstrates the important role of the neuropeptide hormone oxytocin (OT) in human behaviour and cognition. Intranasal OT administration has been shown to improve several aspects of social communication, such as the theory of mind performance and gaze to the eye region, and reduce anxiety and related negative cognitive appraisals. While this early research has demonstrated the potential for intranasal OT to treat psychiatric illnesses characterized by social impairments, the neurobiological mechanisms are not well known. Researchers have used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the neural correlates of OT response; however, results have been variable and moderating factors are poorly understood. The aim of this meta-analysis is to synthesize data examining the impact of intranasal OT administration on neural activity.
Studies that report fMRI data after intranasal OT administration will be identified. PubMed, Embase, PsycINFO, and Google Scholar databases will be searched as well as the citation lists of retrieved articles. Eligible articles written in English from 2005 onwards will be included in the meta-analysis, and corresponding authors of these papers will be invited to contribute t-maps. Data will be collected from eligible studies for synthesis using Seed-based d Mapping (SDM) or Multi-Level Kernel Density Analysis (MKDA), depending on the number of usable t-maps received. Additionally, publication bias and risk of bias will be assessed.
This systematic review and meta-analysis will be the first pre-registered synthesis of data to identify the neural correlates of OT nasal spray response. The identification of brain regions underlying OT’s observed effects will help guide future research and better identify treatment targets.
Systematic review registration
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