It is secreted at the base of the brain, in the hypothalamus, and the entire nervous system is sensitive to its effects. Oxytocin production is stimulated by estrogen, but it is not a female-only hormone, because men produce it as well.
Oxytocin lowers the heart rate and blood pressure, quiets the brain’s fear centers, and suppresses the production of stress hormones. Childbirth begins with a flood of oxytocin that contracts the uterus and stimulates milk production. Nursing stimulates the production of more oxytocin, as does the sight or sound of the baby. New mothers will even produce oxytocin at the mention of their baby’s name or upon seeing a photograph. It’s oxytocin that puts new mothers in the brain-addled state that allows them to spend hours gazing at their babies, finding new and fascinating details in their faces and tiny bodies. The equivalent of a “hunter’s trance” in the mother ensures survival for the otherwise helpless infant. It is secreted at the base of the brain, in the hypothalamus, and the entire nervous system is sensitive to its effects. Oxytocin production is stimulated by estrogen, but it is not a female-only hormone, because men produce it as well.
With a team of researchers, Zak took blood from thousands of test subject from all walks of life in a variety of circumstances. When Zak artificially boosted levels of oxytocin, people were more caring, more giving and less likely to cheat. He also found that merely acting in a trusting manner triggered the body’s own production of oxytocin, creating what Zak refers as the ultimate virtuous cycle.
Stroking animals increase their oxytocin level. Stroking rats 40 times a minute for 5 minutes reduced lab rats’ stress chemistry, increased their pain tolerance, and calmed them so deeply, some feel asleep. And that she could produce the same anti-stress effects by giving rats shots of oxytocin.
“A study published Tuesday in the Journal of Neuroscience has uncovered a surprising new property of oxytocin, finding that when men in monogamous relationships got a sniff of the stuff, they subsequently put a little extra space between themselves and an attractive woman they’d just met,” wrote the LA Times recently. The results surprised researchers. They had assumed oxytocin would make all men inch closer to cute females. Instead men in committed relationships moved farther away when dosed with oxytocin (and only when dosed
- Oxytocin May Reduce Anxiety Related to Social Threats, But Only for Some (psychologicalscience.org)
- Epigenetic regulation of the oxytocin receptor gene: implications for behavioral neuroscience. (rinf.com)
- What does oxytocin do
- The homone