Effects of Intranasal Oxytocin on Long-Term Memory in Healthy Humans: A Systematic Review

Michela Brambilla, Rosa Manenti, Giovanni de Girolamo, Mauro Adenzato, Luisella Bocchio-Chiavetto, Maria Cotelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Preclinical Research The neuropeptide oxytocin (Oxt) is implicated in complex emotional and social behaviors and appears to play an important role in learning and memory. Animal studies have shown that the effects of exogenous Oxt on memory vary according to the timing of administration, context, gender, and dose and may improve the memory of social, but not nonsocial stimuli. Oxt is intimately involved in a broad array of neuropsychiatric functions and may therefore be a pharmacological target for several psychiatric disorders. This review summarizes the potential effects of Oxt on long-term memory processes in healthy humans based on a PubMed search over the period 1980-2016. The effects of intranasal Oxt on human memory are controversial and the studies included in this review have applied a variety of learning paradigms, in turn producing variable outcomes. Specifically, data on the long-term memory of nonemotional stimuli found no effect or even worsening in memory, while studies using emotional stimuli showed an improvement of long-term memory performance. In conclusion, this review identified a link between long-term memory performance and exogenous intranasal Oxt in humans, although these results still warrant further confirmation in large, multicenter randomized controlled trials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)479-488
JournalDrug Development Research
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Encoding
  • Endogenous oxytocin
  • Learning
  • Recall
  • Recognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Drug Discovery


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