A recent study demonstrated that pregnant women with low oxytocin have a higher risk of postpartum depression. This is not surprising. Oxytocin is the bonding hormone and many studies have demonstrated how low oxytocin can cause unhappy parenting. Young fathers with low oxytocin are often indifferent or even violent. When given oxytocin spray they seem happier and are more likely to encourage their children to explore during playtime.
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.
Specifically, oxytocin is produced in the posterior retina of the eye. Low levels of oxytocin can cause problems with intermittent vision blurring. Patients with a low oxytocin often experience pain in the posterior eye. When oxytocin is administered vision is sharpened. People who have a difficult time maintaining eye contact often have bigger issues such as autism or a myriad of social anxiety disorders. Schizophrenia is not uncommon. (Bankier, Aigner, & Bach, 2007; Le, Ramos, & Munoz, 2007; Marchesi, Bertoni, & Maggini, 2008; Saarijärvi, Salminen, Taylor, & Toikka, 2006). Studies have shown that a single dose of oxytocin can relax a person enough to focus on the eyes and away from less relevant areas of the face. What is mostly comes down to is relaxation and less anxiety. Studies show that cumulative intranasal doses of oxytocin product more natural oxytocin in all of the glands, including the retina of the eye.
In a recent study at Claremont Graduate University, oxytocin was
administered to participants who were then offered an opportunity to divide a sum of money with a total stranger-who could then accept or reject the split. The results were overwhelming: Those given oxytocin offered 80% more money than those given placebo oxytocin. Researchers determined that oxytocin increased empathy, which increased altruism which increased generosity among strangers. “Oxytocin specifically and powerfully affected generosity with real money when participants had to consider another’s feelings,” said researcher Paul Zak. “This result confirms our earlier work showing that oxytocin increases trust and generosity.” Zak found oxytocin’s effect on generosity to be three fold. In another study Zak demonstrated the relationship between oxytocin and trust, making a clear case that oxytocin causes a shift in our chemistry–the more we trust one another and cooperate, the more we all benefit.
According to some studies in animals, oxytocin inhibits the development of tolerance to various addictive drugs (opiates, cocaine, alcohol) and reduces withdrawal symptoms.
Rats addicted to heroin used less of the drug when experimenters raised oxytocin levels in their brains.
People often refer to oxytocin as the mind reading hormone. In the name of honesty, this claim needs to be addressed. Oxytocin is NOT a mind reading hormone. Sad but true. There are mind reading tricks (check: “Think of a number, any number”), and mentalist tricks, “Think of a name.” being two of the most common. But, there is no magical elixir capable of shooting pure thoughts between minds. Sorry, modern science hasn’t discovered or invented a substance they could fashion into a pill, cream, or suppository capable of ushering people beyond the realm of the five human senses. And, anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is having you on.
Oxytocin should more accurately be referred to as the mentalist hormone because it helps us to read others very closely. Not as a parlor trick but for practical reasons. As our economy moves from manufacturing to the services, people skills are more necessary than ever. People with elevated oxytocin are more perceptive, empathetic and comfortable with all kinds of people, be they one on one, or in groups. High oxytocin releasers naturally excel in work requiring persuasion and social perceptiveness. Marketing managers, cops and lawyers need to be particularly adept at negotiating with peers and each other as well as judges, not to mention picking the right jurors. Doctors, physical therapists, physicians assistants, or anyone else in the health care field who participates in any type of diagnosis also requires this ability.
To be a successful Mentalist or Mom you have to be unusually sharp and observant of the subtleties of your audience and your children—and the people around your children. We live in tricky times and parents need to be highly aware of everything in their children’s lives. How do you rate? If you have a few minutes you can find out. Just click here to take the famous Mind in the Eyes Test. It’s fun. You might be better than you think you are. In any case, please remember that high oxytocin test subjects always perform better than low oxytocin producers. No, oxytocin is not a mind reading hormone but it is the closest thing to it.