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Nasal spray turns jerks into nice guys

It’s not exactly Love Potion No. 9, but giving a guy squirt up the nose of a “cuddle” hormone may make him sweeter, according to new research announced in the journal Psychological Science.

In a study conducted at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Columbia University, 27 healthy men in their 20s were tested on their social competence, then were given either a nasal squirt of oxytocin or a placebo.

A naturally-occuring hormone, oxytocin is known to regulate prosocial behavior in both animals and humans and is said to be responsible for everything from bonding with baby to better orgasms. For women, oxytocin plays a major role in birth, lactation and maternal bonding. In men, it's linked to sexual arousal. It also helps with trust and pair ponding in both genders.

As a result, it’s been dubbed the “hormone of love” or the “cuddle chemical.”

Upon being given a blast of either oxytocin or a placebo, the men in the study were asked to perform an “empathic accuracy task,” such as watching videos of people discussing emotional events from their lives.

Move over, Monday Night Football. Hello, Lifetime channel!

After watching the videos, the men rated how they thought the people in the videos were feeling, then researchers tallied the results. The less socially adept men who were given the so-called “hormone of love” performed significantly better.

The guys who already had high scores in social proficiency -- the easygoing extroverts -- were just as empathetic whether they had the oxytocin or the placebo.

“Our data show that oxytocin selectively improves social cognition in people who are less socially proficient, but had little impact on more socially proficient individuals,” said Dr. Jennifer Bartz, assistant professor of psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and lead author of the study told Science Daily .

Does this mean some kind of anti-shyness drug is on the way? Or how about a nasal nudge for insensitive boyfriends? Don’t hold your breath.

The oxytocin findings will be used to help treat people with disorders like autism, a disorder that predominantly affects men, says Bartz.