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December 29, 2005
A Love Spray for the Fearful
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.
Scientists 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.
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