Entries in oxytocin (11)


Here’s One Valentine’s Day Gift You Can’t Possibly Go Wrong With

Every year around Valentine’s Day people start agonizing about finding the “perfect” gift for their partner, and some spend extraordinary amounts of money on it too. But no matter the effort or financial cost incurred, many of us quickly discover that our gifts provided only fleeting happiness and were quickly forgotten. In order to avoid this outcome, I recommend giving your partner something much more personal this year: touch. It will be much easier on your wallet, and it has the potential to improve your relationship far more than any material object that you and your money can buy. 

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Oxytocin – The Love Hormone: Relationship Matters Podcast 37

The new season of SAGE’s “Relationship Matters” podcast has begun! Hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College, “Relationship Matters” brings you the latest from the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. In this season’s premier, Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad (Brigham Young University) discusses her research on the link between relationship quality and oxytocin.

Researchers have long been interested in the hormone oxytocin’s role in inducing labor in mothers and in promoting healthy bonding between mothers and newborn infants. Over the past decade, however, oxytocin’s role in adult romantic functioning has received increasing empirical attention. Some studies find that couples with higher relationship quality show higher oxytocin levels. Explanations for this association include (a) higher levels of oxytocin lead to lower levels of disagreement, (b) lower levels of disagreement lead to higher level of oxytocin, (c) both a and b, or (d) none of the above – some other variable is responsible. Interestingly, other studies find that those higher in distress have increased oxytocin – perhaps as a function of trying to promote or recapture relationship harmony. 

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Kids vs. Scantily Clad Women: Which Do New Dads Prefer and Why?

We’ve written previously that fatherhood is associated with decreased levels of testosterone in dads (except for when a testosterone boost might come in handy). For the most part, the general belief has been that the dads’ lower testosterone limits their impulses to mate (presumably not with their baby-momma), thus keeping them invested in their children.

Some recent research from Emory University, however, suggests another, or additional, possibility.1 Specifically, the researchers compared the testosterone and oxytocin hormone levels of a group of fathers of 1-2 year old children with hormone  levels of men without children. In addition to collecting blood samples to measure the hormones, the researchers also scanned the brains (via MRI scans) of all the men while they were looking at 3 types of pictures: 1) children’s faces (of the same sex and age as their own kids, and depicting a range of emotional expressions), 2) unknown adult faces displaying similar emotions, and 3) scantily clad women. The research team was interested in whether fathers vs. non-fathers responded neurologically (i.e., as assessed via increased brain activation) to the different types of images and, if so, what role hormones play in those neural responses.

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The Dark Side of Oxytocin

Oxytocin is a hormone that promotes bonding during the early stages of relationship development, positive feelings toward relationship partners1, including feelings of trust.2  In fact, oxytocin has been implicated in a variety of positive relationship behaviors, including attachment, social memory, sexual behavior, and orgasm, as well as maternal caring and bonding behaviors.3 As a result, the media often refers to oxytocin as the “cuddle hormone.” However, recent research suggests that the so-called “cuddle hormone” may have a dark side by increasing relationship violence.

How They Did It

Researchers randomly assigned 93 undergraduate students to receive a nasal spray containing either (a) oxytocin or (b) a saline solution (i.e., a placebo spray). Importantly, the administration of the spray was double-blind; neither the researcher nor the participant knew which spray the participant was receiving.  Following the spray, researchers provoked participants in an attempt to raise stress levels and establish a context for aggression. The provocations involved giving a brief speech to an audience who disagreed with the speech and experiencing a “cold pressor task” in which extreme cold is applied to the participant’s forehead (resulting in moderate physical pain).  Participants then completed a measure of trait aggression (i.e., how much the person is naturally inclined toward aggression) as well as a measure of how likely individuals were to be aggressive toward their partners that asked about the likelihood of engaging in several behaviors toward their romantic partners (e.g., throwing things, twisting their arm/hair, shoving). 

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Your Relationships May Keep Stress From Killing You

Read more about stress, health, and relationships in our articles here and here.

Paging Dr. Love

The legendary rockers of the American band KISS may not have been so far off when they belted out, “Baby, I know what your problem is...the first step of the cure is a kiss!” in their hit single, “Calling Dr. Love.” They couldn’t have known it at the time, but current relationship scientists may now agree with Gene Simmons’ medical claims. There might be a little something special to that kiss.

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Oxytocin: The Hormone that Binds

image source: dioceseofjoliet.orgIn a recent study, oxytocin levels in single individuals and romantic couples were measured, and the couples were videotaped while interacting with each other. Individuals in romantic relationships were found to have higher levels of oxytocin than the romantically-unattached. Further, couples with the highest oxytocin levels were more likely to experience positive emotions when interacting with their partners. This research provides additional evidence of the critical role of oxytocin in promoting bonding between individuals.

Schneiderman, I., Zagoory-Sharon, O., Leckman, J. F., & Feldman, R. (in press) Oxytocin during the initial stages of romantic attachment: Relations to couples’ interactive reciprocity. Psychoneuroendocrinology. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2011.12.021


When Stress Hits, Call Your Mother. Don’t Text, Talk to Her. Really.

You’ve had a crappy day. Maybe your boss yelled at you, you forgot to pay the mortgage, or you lost your keys. When life stresses you out, sometimes you need your momma. After all, how many times have you heard your mom say how nice it is to hear your voice? But recent research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggests that it may be you that benefits from hearing your mother’s voice.

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Hard-Wired for Care? A Genetic Basis for Providing Care to a Partner in Need

It’s not too profound to suggest that people are biological creatures—without genes, bodies, and brains, no part of our social lives would be possible. But how our biology relates to our minds and behavior has been a black box for centuries. Scientists simply didn’t have the tools or level of biological knowledge necessary to connect what happens in our bodies to how we experience the world. In the last 30 years, however, advances in genetics, physiological recording, and brain imaging have made it possible to begin to unpack some of the links between biology and psychology.

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Ask Dr. Loving: Dealing with "Stupid-Boy-Syndrome"

"A Little Frustrated" asked: "Stupid-Boy-Syndrome" is a term my friend uses to describe a tendency of some guys to be oblivious to feelings and situations that the woman feels to be obvious. Now, my boyfriend seems to be especially prone to this syndrome, appearing absent minded and downright clumsy when it comes to discussing my feelings. If I tell him his approach isn't working, he says he's just not good at remembering details. What's the trick to being in a relationship with a man if he cares about you, but he isn't attentive unless you prod him to be and he has a memory like a sieve?

Dear L. F.;

There’s nothing wrong with prodding.

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Oxytocin Takes the Ass out of Masculinity

We’ve written before about the types of faces women find attractive (see here and here). In addition to those studies, one of the more well-known findings in the facial attractiveness literature is that women show a preference for more masculine faces when they are ovulating, but actually tend to prefer less masculine, or more feminized, faces when they are not likely to conceive a child. Why the shift in preference?

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