Oxytocin, sometimes called “the cuddle hormone,” promotes trust in romantic relationships, and is known to be partially responsible for bonding between mother and child through breast feeding. However, Concordia University researchers Mark Ellenbogen and Christopher Cardoso have taken a different approach with the hormone and conducted a study that tested the effects of oxytocin on a person’s mood, during an episode of social rejection.
The study simulated and studied negative social interactions by having participants interrupt, disagree with, and ignore one another. Afterwards, it was found that the subjects who were given oxytocin in the form of a nasal spray, instead of a placebo, were more likely to have trust in people despite the social rejection experienced. These individuals responded more positively to questions such as “I believe that most people are basically well-intentioned”, “I tend to assume the best about people”, and “I have a good deal of faith in the human nature.”
Though the effects of oxytocin remain a topic of debate, Cardoso believes that, “oxytocin probably works on limbic brain areas responsible for motivation and the regulation of stress. Whether it affects these brain areas directly or indirectly once it is administered is still an open question in human research.”
Ellenbogen and Cardoso’s results add to the ongoing debate about how oxytocin functions, but they believe this particular finding will aid people with mood disorders. According to their results, oxytocin could play an important role in promoting social bonding after negative social experiences. Rather than hiding from social interactions, oxytocin may encourage individuals to look for help and build trust with others.
“Our culture is quite individualistic, and people lose sight of how much we are biologically wired to rely on each other for support,” said Cardoso. Researchers will no doubt use studies such as this one to help better understand human emotions and relationships in the future, but results so far show that when stressed out the answer might be as easy as venting to a friend or as simple as asking a loved one for a hug.
http://www.internet.uqam.ca/web/t1716/oxytocine.pdf (breastfeeding and oyxtocin)