important brain chemical oxytocin has been dubbed the “love hormone.”
It is released under a number of circumstances: when we receive an
enjoyable touch or embrace or are sexually aroused; when a mother and a
newborn baby interact; when we look into the eyes of someone we are
Kai McDonald of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), School
of Medicine and his team theorizes that oxytocin, when used with
certain candidates, may increase their levels of trust and emotional
contact. Their research was described in a release from UCSD and online
in Science Daily.
who suffer from schizophrenia, autism or anxiety tend to evade eye
contact as well as social interaction. Dr. McDonald has begun a study
to determine if oxytocin can enable these individuals to reduce
nervousness, increase trust and promote bonding with others.
“A hug or a touch that causes a release of this hormone might change brain signals,” McDonald reports. “We want to know if oxytocin can also impact social and emotional behavior in patients with psychiatric disorders.”
synthetic form of this brain chemical is sold under the trade name
Pitocin. Injections of this drug have been used for decades to bring on
labor and encourage lactation in women. Although physicians have
employed it extensively, its effects on the brain and behavior are just
now being investigated.
is now available in a form that can be sprayed into the nose. This
eliminates the need for injections and, thus, makes it easier for
research subjects. “Previous studies of healthy individuals have shown
that intranasal doses of oxytocin reduce activation of brain circuits
involved in fear, increase levels of eye contact, and increase both
trust and generosity,” McDonald states. “Interestingly, people given
oxytocin don’t report feeling any different, but they act differently.”
are social animals, and it doesn’t take much to initiate feelings of
attraction. Simple eye contact with a loved one, a gentle caress or
warm embrace cause the release of brain chemicals that promote feelings
of love, trust and closeness. While Dr. McDonald is spraying this
chemical into the noses of test subjects, the rest of us, hopefully,
can benefit from the “love hormone” through more natural means.