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Zack Lynch is author of The Neuro Revolution: How Brain Science Is Changing Our World (St. Martin's Press, July 2009).
He is the founder and executive director of the Neurotechnology Industry Organization (NIO) and co-founder of NeuroInsights. He serves on the advisory boards of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies, Science Progress, and SocialText, a social software company. Please send newsworthy items or feedback - to Zack Lynch.
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December 29, 2005

A Love Spray for the Fearful

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Posted by Zack Lynch

The analysis of love has moved from the embrace of poets into the arms of science. A recent series of precise studies reveal some of the key brain areas and molecules, like oxytocin, involved in the ability to love and bond with others, according to December's Brain Briefings. This research creates a better understanding of how the brain controls love and bonding, which is critical for species survival. In addition, the work may help researchers find ways to treat autism, anxiety and phobias.

romjul.jpgScientists have long been intrigued by the hormone oxytocin, which plays a role in complex social behavior. The hormone is part of a system in the brain that controls the formation of emotional bonds, and plays a role during sex, childbirth and breastfeeding. Now, scientists at the National Institutes for Health and Justus-Liebig University in Germany have discovered that oxytocin, which some have dubbed the hormone of love, can make volunteers less fearful.

In a paper published in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers found that volunteers who had oxytocin sprayed into their noses had less fear response when shown frightening images than those given a placebo. Volunteers’ fear reactions were measured through a very sensitive brain-imaging technique that revealed less activity in the part of the brain known as the amygdala. Diminished activity in the amygdala has long been linked to increased sociability and decreased fear, wrote the researchers, whose work was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. The scientists said the research suggested the possibility of using the hormone to treat serious mental disorders characterized by increased anxiety and fear.

I wonder what higher doses of oxytocin might produce? I'll ask some researchers I know who are working on this and report back.

Comments (7) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Emoticeuticals


1. Alcibiades on December 29, 2005 9:34 PM writes...

Hello there. Though not an ordained researcher per se, I've been working a bit on this very hormone/neurochemical myself.

A synopsis of my first-hand oxytocin research: the most noticeable effect indeed was reduction of acute fear response. Administered during a horror flick, oxytocin seemingly did away with any jumpy jolty heart-racing fear-like symptoms. It was strange indeed not to experience that set of familiar feelings during an admittedly frightening movie. That said, oxytocin, at least at the doses permitted by intranasal delivery (and we're talking up to 10-15 puffs per nostril), has not represented a significant breakthrough in treating my social anxiety, and in the end, does not measure up to ethanol in terms of anxiolytic effect. A further drawback (in its pure form at least) is its extremely short duration of action, 1-3 minutes I would estimate, though I do believe others have suggested a longer duration of action. That said, it is a very promising compound, and its reputed effects are, I believe, real. In terms of further inquiry, one very simple thing I'd like to be made aware of is the standard level of circulating oxytocin in your typical human, and to what levels they spike when mom suckles you, your friend high-fives you, etc. I would, naturally, adjust doses accordingly...

Check it out my experience with dosin' 'tocin here

(The "oxytocin log" is in reverse chronological order, so I recommend scrolling to the bottom and starting there.)

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5. Kgbyshnik on February 16, 2007 5:21 AM writes...

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6. adrianne on February 22, 2007 3:27 PM writes...

that's a lovely image there! where can I get a bigger version of it? thanks

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7. Tester on August 29, 2007 4:48 AM writes...

How does one go about getting oxytocin for their own research?

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