The 'love' hormone oxytocin could one day be used as a medicine to help people suffering from conditions such as autism and anxiety to cope with social situations.
British researchers examined the effect of the hormone on 17 healthy men by administrating it via the blood and through the nose.
They found that oxytocin using both injections and nasal spray reduced activity in the region of the brain which processes emotion and feelings of anxiety.
Oxytocin, also known as the 'cuddle hormone', is released by the body during 'tender moments' - including while hugging and during sex.
It is thought to engender trust and generosity, while this study also found it decreased levels of alertness.
Scientists have become increasingly interested in the use of oxytocin to help people suffering from conditions including schizophrenia, autism, anxiety and depression.
The 'love' hormone oxytocin could one day be used as a medicine to help people suffering from conditions such as autism and anxiety to cope with social situations, a study has suggested (file photo)
More than one in 100 British children have autism or a related condition such as Asperger's syndrome - a ten-fold increase on 30 years ago.
Symptoms vary from child to child but can include avoiding eye contact, preferring to play alone, struggling to read emotions and 'talking at' other people, rather than participating in a conversation.
And anxiety, more specifically known as generalised anxiety disorder, is a mental health problem in which people find it difficult to control their stress and worry.
The condition is common and thought to affect around one in 20 people in the UK, although its causes aren't well understood.
It may be triggered by over-activity in certain areas of the brain, a chemical imbalance, or having a traumatic past.
Previous research has shown that an oxytocin nasal spray may help to boost the social skills of people with autism.
But the new research, by Kings College London, was the first study to compare different methods of delivering the hormone and how they affected blood flow in the brain.
The men who took part in the latest study, who were 25 years old on average, did not have any psychiatric conditions.
Each of them received oxytocin