In an attempt to understand how it affects sexual orientation, a team of researchers in China’s Zhejiang University have been spraying oxytocin up the noses of homosexual men in the last two years.
The research led by psychiatrist Hu Shaohua started in October 2015 with 20 volunteers selected randomly. Objectives are stated in its official registration:
“This study aims to research the feature of brain activity and social gender cognition in male homosexuals, and how oxytocin affects them.”
Each participant had to fit several criteria, including age between 18 and 40 years old, no physical or mental disease, no long-term medication or drug dependence, no contraindication of oxytocin, a visual acuity of 0.8 (normal), right-handedness and “complete male homosexuality.”
Produced in the hypothalamus, oxytocin, a chemical messenger, is often referred to as the “love hormone.” It plays a vital role in pregnancy, childbirth and lactation, among others.
Its exact role in social functions, however, remains relatively less-studied. Apparently, this prompted Hu’s team to do research.
To allow for comparison, the researchers divided the volunteers into two groups. The first group sprayed oxytocin up their noses, while the second group sprayed a placebo saline solution.
The study, approved by an ethics committee, initially caused controversy when its application form to the Chinese Clinical Trial Registry had “male homosexual” in the blank space for “target disease.” Some believed that its true intention is to find a cure for homosexuality.
According to SupChina, a Chinese researcher from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology also wrote an open letter to the ethics committee, asking why the study is limited to homosexual men when “heterosexuality and homosexuality are two concepts indispensable to each other in a biological sense.”
Researchers addressed such concerns by redefining the experiment as a “basic study” instead of one seeking medical application.
The study concludes at the end of this year.