One study conducted at The National Academy of Sciences observed improvement after taking small amounts of the oxytocin hormone. Children played more appropriately and were far more accurate in their ability to read playmates. Their focus increased and they were able to read people’s faces above the mouth, specifically the eyes. As we all know someone can be lying to us with their mouth (think politicians) but they really can’t lie to us with their eyes. With this increased power of observation they were better able to determine correct emotions.
Mothers with higher oxytocin levels are more likely to coo to their babies in a playful voice. High oxytocin mothers also smile at their babies and are more flexible to changes in its moods. They also touch more and look into their babies eyes, sing lullaby’s (singing releases oxytocin). And, of course, parents that spend more time looking into each other’s eyes release more oxytocin with each other, always a good thing in any family unit.
Mechanics of oxytocin and depression:
Serotonin is one of our most well understood feel-good neurotransmitters and the focus of the vast majority of antidepressants. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has taught us that oxytocin works at the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor site. Serotonin is found in great density in the amygdala, the seat of all of our negative memories, fears and anxieties. Increased oxytocin in the amygdala triggers serotonin. Serotonin decreases blood pressure, heart rate, mitigates aggression and promotes calm behavior. Clearly, oxytocin and serotonin have a quid pro quo relationship that can bring faster relief and greater efficacy to any SSRI based antidepressant protocol. Oxytocin is the perfect adjunct to 5HTP therapy.
One of the hallmark symptoms of Autism syndrome is the impaired ability to read other people. Autistics and high functioning Asperger’s victims are said to just not “get” it. They don’t know if you are happy, sad or indifferent. One of the primary reasons for this is that they don’t—or can’t—maintain eye contact. They have difficulty looking above the mouth. It makes them uncomfortable. They become fearful and anxious when looking in the eyes. According to countless recent studies, this all changes when treated with nasal oxytocin.
Participants in recent study (17 to 39 years old, with a mean age of 26) had results worth further inspection. The difference in play level of the oxytocin subjects (relative to the placebo subject) was significant. Participants were also asked to look at faces via flashing photos of just eyes and then asked to identify the emotion. The subjects identified the correct emotion 20% to 30% more accurately than the placebo group. And their attention was 30% more focused because rapid changes in gaze and direction were reduced
Oxytocin raises aggression, cuts anxiety during lactation.
Maternal aggressive/protective behavior is recognized throughout mammalian species, especially during lactation. When hiking, we warn our kids not to approach bear cubs, or to get between a cub and the mother. While driving and you see a fawn, you know a doe can’t be too far away and will run headlong to protect it.
The same neurohypophyseal (NH) hormone, oxytocin (OT), is responsible for both the physiological and behavioral changes, but the site of action is quite different. OT is released during parturition and in lactation not only from NH terminals into the bloodstream in order to support reproductive systems, but also within the brain, into the supraoptic nucleus (SON) and paraventricular nucleus (PVN), where it has marked behavioral impact.
OT release in the brain is involved with such reproductive events as “morphological plasticity, autoregulation of OT neuronal activity and promotion of maternal behavior, including maternal aggressive behavior to protect offspring,” Inga D. Neumann of the University of Regensburg, Germany, notes. “Thus in lactating rats from a line bred for high-anxiety behavior, or HAB, OT release within both the central amygdala and the PVN was positively correlated with the level of maternal offensive behavior against an intruder.” In addition, the lactating HAB dams display higher aggression and central OT release compared with a low-anxiety line.