Oxytocin: Nature’s Bonding Potion

Oxytocin is said to be a key to developing the maternal bond with children at birth.  It is also I have always had the view that love was a biochemical phenomenon.  Not a very romantic notion but what I read and see seems to support the mapping discoveries of the brain where emotions can be conjured by the placement of a probe.  A chemical (or neuromodulatoris just another type of probe, a biological key.  This probably accounts for a lot of the effect of ritual, religion, and culture.  If 40 days of exile in the desert can cause god to appear, I think much of the world we live in is likewise an illusory contact with the chemical world. – carlos

Researchers have found that the naturally-occurring hormone and neurotransmitter oxytocin intensifies men’s memories of their mother’s affections during childhood. The study was published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers at the Seaver Autism Center for Research and Treatment at Mount Sinai School of Medicine wanted to determine whether oxytocin, a hormone and  that is known to regulate attachment and social  in animals, is also involved in human attachment memories. They conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial, giving 31 healthy adult men oxytocin or a placebo delivered nasally on two occasions. Prior to administering the drug/placebo, the researchers measured the men’s attachment style. About 90 minutes after administering the oxytocin or the placebo the researchers assessed participants’ recollection of their mother’s care and closeness in childhood.

They found that men who were less anxious and more securely attached remembered their  as more caring and remembered being closer to their mothers in childhood when they received oxytocin, compared to when they received placebo. However, men who were more anxiously attached remembered their mothers as less caring and remembered being less close to their mothers in childhood when they received oxytocin, compared to when they received placebo. These results were not due to more general effects of oxytocin on mood or well-being.

“These results may seem surprising because researchers have assumed that the neuromodulator oxytocin has ubiquitous positive effects on and  in humans,” said Jennifer Bartz, PhD, Assistant Professor, Psychiatry, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and lead author of the study. “The fact that oxytocin did not make all participants remember their mother as more caring, but in fact intensified the positivity or negativity of the men’s pre-existing memories, suggests that oxytocin plays a more specific role in these attachment representations. We believe that oxytocin may help people form memories about important social information in their environment and attach incentive value to those memories.

“However, we do not know whether oxytocin, when administered in drug form, increases a person’s ability to accurately recall their mother’s affections in childhood, or sets in motion a biased search for memories that support their more general beliefs about close relationships.”

The ability to bond with our caregivers early in life has long been thought to be critical to survival because these bonds insure caregiver protection for the otherwise defenseless infant.

“We know very little about the biological mechanisms that support human attachment bonds, but understand that oxytocin regulates attachment in animals, and plays a specific role in forming social memories,” said Dr. Bartz. “Our study suggests that  may similarly play a key role in human attachment by modulating these early memories of mom.”

Provided by The Mount Sinai Hospital

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About carlos

I'm a curious person, of reasonable intellect, "on the beach" (retired) and enjoying my interest in anthropology, language, civil rights, and a few other areas. I've been a hippie/student/aerospace tech writer in the '60s, a witness to the Portuguese revolution in the ‘70s, a defense test engineer and witness to the Guatemalan genocide in the '80s, and a network engineer for an ISP in the '90s. Now I’m a student and commentator until my time is up. I've spent time under the spell of the Mesoamerican pyramids and the sweet sound of the Portuguese language. I've lived in Europe, traveled in Brazil, Central America, Iceland, New Zealand, and other places. My preferred mode of travel is with a backpack and I eat (almost) anything local. Somehow, many of the countries I have been to have had civil unrest (for which I was not responsible). I'm open to correspond with anyone who might share my liberal, humanist interests. I live in San Buenaventura, California.
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