Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Oxytocin,the good and bad effects of a love potion

A previous article on pheromones concluded that you can't induce love or other positive emotions. But was I wrong to say that you can't induce some feelings with smell?. Further research shows a possibility of a alternative trigger. Oxytocin was discovered by Sir Henry Hallett Dale in 1906. The milk ejection property of oxytocin was described by Ott and Scott in 1910 and by Schafer and Mackenzie in 1911. The nine amino acid sequence of oxytocin was elucidated by Vincent du Vigneaud et al. and by Tuppy in 1953 and synthesized biochemically soon after by du Vigneaud et al. in 1953. Oxytocin was the first polypeptide hormone to be sequenced and synthesized.

Best know for releasing during sexual reproduction, child birth and facilitating breast-feeding, Oxytocin appears in the later stages of a relationship for pair bonding, social recognition and in the feeling of empathy.
Given its ability to break-down social barriers, induce feelings of optimism, increase self-esteem, and build trust, oxytocin is increasingly being seen as something that can help people overcome their social inhibitions and fears. Studies are showing that it may be effective in treating debilitating shyness, or to help people with social anxieties and mood disorders. It's also thought that oxytocin could help people suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. In addition, given that autism is essentially a social communication disorder, it's being considered as a way of helping people on the spectrum as well.
Oxytocin, through its trust-building actions, can help heal the wounds of a damaged relationship — another example of how the mind gets its plasticity. Amazingly, oxytocin can also be used to heal wounds (through its anti-inflammatory properties). Studies have also shown that a rise in oxytocin levels can relieve pain — everything from headaches, cramps and overall body aches. Now, that being said, the trick is to get some oxytocin action while you're in pain — which is not so easy. This is where synthetics can certainly help. Alternately, if you find yourself in physical discomfort, you could always ask your partner for a roll in the hay. So guys, be sure to use this crucial information the next time your significant other declines your advances and tells you she has a headache.

Perhaps surprisingly, it can also be used to prevent obesity in some instances. Researchers have observed that oxytocin and oxytocin receptor-deficient mice become obese later in life — and with normal food intake. Scientists believe that the hormone might be responsible for a series of beneficial metabolic effects, both in mice and humans. Moreover, by giving oxytocin-deficient obese mice oxytocin infusions, their weight returned back to normal levels. The mice also showed a reduced glucose intolerance and insulin resistance. This clearly suggests an alternative option for those struggling to keep the weight off.
Oxytocin was first observed to have a connection to depression through its effects on mothers suffering from postpartum syndrome. Researchers found that some new mothers were dealing with depression on account of low levels of oxytocin. In fact, they were able to predict postpartum during the pregnancy if the expectant mother had low levels of oxytocin. Recent studies of blood levels and genetic factors in depressed patients have revealed the potential for treating people with clinical depression, and even anxiety disorders.

Not surprisingly, given its ability to alleviate social anxiety and produce feelings of trust, oxytocin has the peripheral ability to reduce stress — which is no small thing when you consider the toll that stress takes on the body. Oxytocin has been observed to reduce cortisol in the body and lower blood pressure. It's also been known to improve digestion, which is often disturbed by high stress levels. Interestingly, oxytocin and the oxytocin receptors have been found in the intestinal tract; it improves gut motility and decreases intestinal inflammation.

In what could be seen as either a good or bad thing, oxytocin has been observed to increase generosity in humans. Evolutionary biologists, particularly those who subscribe to the selfish gene theory, have long struggled to understand why people sometimes share or give away things — often at a personal cost. But several lines of research have connected oxytocin to feelings of empathy. In one study that required persons to share money with a stranger, infusions of oxytocin were shown to make some subjects as much as 80% (wow!) more generous than those on a placebo.

Other results would further discolor the rose-tinted view. Some scientists have found that oxytocin boosts envy and schadenfreude, as well as favoritism toward one’s own clique. In one experiment, volunteers who played a game with people they knew were more cooperative after a noseful of oxytocin, while those who played with anonymous strangers became less cooperative.
Jennnifer Bartz, from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, has found several responses that depend on a person’s mindset. She showed that socially secure people remember their mothers in a more positive light after inhaling oxytocin, while anxious ones remember mum as less caring and more distant. Along similar lines, she showed that oxytocin hinders trust and cooperation among people with borderline personality disorder. These nuances didn’t come out of the blue. When Bartz looked at the early oxytocin studies more closely, she found that around half of them showed that the hormone enhanced positive behavior only in certain situations or individuals.

Meyer-Lindenberg (Professor and Chairman of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Heidelberg) hypothesized that oxytocin boosts trust by suppressing the amygdala and its fear-processing networks. To test this idea, he asked 15 healthy men to sniff oxytocin or a placebo prior to undergoing a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scan, which reveals what parts of the brain that are activated by particular activities. While in the scanner, the men performed tasks known to activate the amygdala — matching angry or fearful faces and threatening scenes.

Oxytocin might not be the miracle everyone would suggests, it has the ability to induced warm feelings and might reduce anxiety. But at a cost of rewiring your brain (maybe temporarily), to dull your ability to recognize certain danger. Considering both factors its best to weigh your options if you want to win friends and influence people. Considering that stress would reduce your oxytocin secretions say in a job interview, I have wondered if I was sprayed with it might I influence a positive outcome?. People can make up their own mind if they are willing to use Oxytocin, its still early days for a full research on the effects. But considering oxytocin has been around for quite sometime and is readily available on the internet, I just wonder if I might try my own experiment.

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