Follow the link (title and here) to a brief report on the effect of Oxytocin [OT] on sexually related stimuli.
OT is usually assessed in serum as a result of, e.g., social supportive interventions. It typically increases as one feels "close" to another, and serves to enhance social bonds. These guys are inducing OT exogenously - via a nasal spray (!?) - and showing increases in the cognitive "availability" of sexual and relationship concepts.
Besides its obvious commercial potential, this raises some interesting conceptual issues. Their outcome is reaction time in a word recognition task, so it is far from the sexual trenches. It is interesting nonetheless. The key is that their experimental paradigm may allow for examining changes in sexual decisions within-person.
Does a measurable increase in OT disrupt one's good intentions by shifting the threshold for perceiving an otherwise neutral (or even negative / "risky") stimulus as sexual and positive? Sort of a neurochemical beer goggles.
Or, less crudely, and using some of Eric's framework, does OT shift one's action identification in a sexual context from the concrete (hanging out, maybe having sex...) to the abstract (pair-bonding, establishing human closeness, closely "relating"). As Eric has argued, higher-order action identifications may be hazardous to your health: you may sacrifice (concrete) individual protective motives on the alter of some abstract notion of "really being close tonight".
Do we, in our preventive interventions, inculcate beliefs and intentions that are learned in a "low-OT" state that, in a state-dependent learning -like fashion, fail to control behavior when one's brain state shifts? Perhaps a signal-detection paradigm may provide a way to examine the effect of temporary changes in OT level on high versus low risk mens' shifting thresholds for recognizing risk.
Are there individual - or within-individual - differences in the precursors of OT that we could conceptualize, assess and modify?
How do neurotransmitters such as OT map onto avoidant or "escape" coping with health risks? To the use of alcohol or drugs in potentially risky contexts? Brian Mustanski has found that the search for positive affect may be more important to risk than seeking relief from negative affect.
Your thoughts, esteemed colleagues? Kyle, you are the new experimental guy - what do you think?