It turns out oxytocin is responsible for a lot more than just love. New science has found that this amazing molecule also influences how sociable each of us is, allowing us to 'tune in' to the social information around us, perceiving it in much higher resolution. Scientists are now applying this new knowledge in the lab, and as reporter Dr Graham Phillips finds out, they're discovering oxytocin's great potential to treat social disorders, like drug addiction and alcoholism.
Half the group of burned volunteers got a whiff of Eau de Oxytocin, half got a sniff of Eau de Placebo. Those who sniffed the oxytocin were more trusting and ready to invest with an anonymous trustee a second time than were the placebo-exposed subjects. And when they were asked “Do you want to try this again?” the oxytocin-treated volunteers responded more quickly than the volunteers who hadn’t gotten the nose full of Trust Spray.6
In women, oxytocin is responsible for signaling contractions of the womb during labor. The hormone stimulates the uterine muscles to contract, so labor begins. It also increases the production of prostaglandins, which move labor along and increases the contractions even more. Because of this effect, synthetic oxytocin (pitocin) is sometimes used to induce a woman to start labor if she cannot start naturally, or it can be given to make contractions stronger if a woman's labor is slowing.
In a study measuring oxytocin serum levels in women before and after sexual stimulation, the author suggests it serves an important role in sexual arousal. This study found genital tract stimulation resulted in increased oxytocin immediately after orgasm.[105] Another study reported increases of oxytocin during sexual arousal could be in response to nipple/areola, genital, and/or genital tract stimulation as confirmed in other mammals.[106] Murphy et al. (1987), studying men, found oxytocin levels were raised throughout sexual arousal with no acute increase at orgasm.[107] A more recent study of men found an increase in plasma oxytocin immediately after orgasm, but only in a portion of their sample that did not reach statistical significance. The authors noted these changes "may simply reflect contractile properties on reproductive tissue".[108]
5-HTP works in the brain and central nervous system by increasing the production of the chemical serotonin. Serotonin can affect sleep, appetite, temperature, sexual behavior, and pain sensation. Since 5-HTP increases the synthesis of serotonin, it is used for several diseases where serotonin is believed to play an important role including depression, insomnia, obesity, and many other conditions.
“Shortly after taking the supplement, my vision changes. Colours appear more vivid, I feel lightheaded and generally at ease. My mind calms down and the racing thoughts stop. Today is the 3rd day and I’ve noticed the intensity has gone up and it almost feels like I’m tripping on something. The sky looked absolutely amazing today, colours are so intense but I feel a kind of ungrounded and odd, but still pretty mellow with no anxious thoughts or anything like that which is good.”
Oxytocin production is controlled by a positive feedback mechanism. This mechanism allows the release of the oxytocin hormone when a trigger occurs. The hormone then causes an action in the body, such as the letdown of milk or the start of labor contractions, which signals more production of oxytocin. The feedback cycle continues until the action, such as childbirth or feeding the baby, is complete.
However, the Food and Drug Administration and its equivalents in other countries have issued repeated advisory notices about Melanotan II, urging consumers to stop using and purchasing this unapproved product. David Carter of the United Kingdom's Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency was unequivocal in his denunciation, warning would-be buyers against being "fooled into thinking that Melanotan offers a shortcut to a more even tan." Liverpool John Moores University researcher Michael Evans-Brown cautioned that the peptide may be linked to dyspepsia and various cardiovascular problems, such as increases in blood pressure, while others have noted it appears to stimulate the growth of moles on the body.
Guastella and his team just completed an unpublished study that is the first to test the effects of oxytocin on couples in therapy. In one part of the study, couples were asked to discuss a “hot topic,” one that usually led to conflict between the pair, and to then try to solve the issue. Although the data analysis is still in progress, Guastella expects couples that got oxytocin to show less hostile interpretations of the problem and be less critical of their partners. He thinks overall it will increase perspective-taking and reduce blame, leading to smoother communication and better problem-solving.

Before all of this, the men completed a series of widely used questionnaires to measure the state of their social ties. The questions assessed the nature of their bonds with their families and friends, how sensitive they are to rejection, how comfortable they are at being close to other people, how much they desire that closeness, and more. Shortly after using both sprays, the recruits also answered questions about their mother’s parenting style.
It has been shown that oxytocin differentially affects males and females. Females who are administered oxytocin are overall faster in responding to socially relevant stimuli than males who received oxytocin.[75][86] Additionally, after the administration of oxytocin, females show increased amygdala activity in response to threatening scenes; however, males do not show increased amygdala activation. This phenomenon can be explained by looking at the role of gonadal hormones, specifically estrogen, which modulate the enhanced threat processing seen in females. Estrogen has been shown to stimulate the release of oxytocin from the hypothalamus and promote receptor binding in the amygdala.[86]
An interesting concept that has emerged from initial findings is that regeneration and fibrosis are competing events in the vertebrate heart. That is, if there is a capacity for injury-stimulated cardiomyocyte hyperplasia beyond a certain threshold, regenerative mechanisms will overcome scarring. Results consistent with this idea came from experiments with zebrafish possessing a ts mutation in the cell-cycle checkpoint kinase Mps1 (Poss et al., 2002b). As mentioned earlier, mps1 mutants were initially identified based on their defects in caudal fin regeneration. Serendipitously, mps1 mutants also showed defects in cardiac regeneration at a temperature restrictive for the mutation (Poss et al., 2002b). Instead of regenerating muscle in response to ventricular resection injury, mps1 mutants repaired wounds by forming large, collagen-rich scars. Inhibition of Fgf signaling also stunts cardiac regeneration and causes scarring (Lepilina et al., 2006). These results indicate that even vertebrates with high cardiac regenerative capacity have a default scarring mechanism; normally, regeneration somehow restricts this pathway (Fig. 8). The implication is exciting; perhaps by stimulating regeneration in a poorly-regenerative system like the mammalian heart, scarring events characteristic of myocardial infarction would be restricted by new muscle formation. Similarly, deterring cardiac scarring mechanisms would perhaps favor regeneration in mammals.
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Cells were pretreated with indicated concentrations of Tβ4 peptide for 2 hours and then incubated with 200 μM H2O2 for 48 hours (A-C). Protein expressions were assessed by Western blot analysis (A). The production of NO (B) and PGE2 (C) were measured by Griess reaction and ELISA, respectively. Data replicated the quantifications of NO and PGE2 with the standard deviation of at least three experiments (n = 4). The bar graph shows the fold increase in protein expression compared with control cells. * Statistically significant differences compared with the control, p<0.05. # Statistically significant difference compared with the H2O2—treated group.

In a study that hasn’t been published yet, Feldman found that oxytocin receptor genes are also linked to empathy in couples. She looked at variants in the gene that have been linked with an increased risk for autism, a disorder that is marked by major social communication deficits. She found that the more of these “risk variants” a person had, the less empathy they showed toward their partner when that partner shared a distressing experience.
At first, the mice showed an irregular smattering of neural impulses when they heard the baby's cries. Then, as the oxytocin kicked in, the signal evolved into a more orderly pattern typical of a maternal brain. The study showed in unusual detail how the hormone changed the behaviour of neurons1. “Oxytocin is helping to transform the brain, to make it respond to those pup calls,” Froemke says.
These proteins, which typically contain 2-4 repeats of the β-thymosin sequence, are found in all phyla of the animal kingdom, with the probable exception of sponges[21] The sole mammalian example, a dimer in mice, is synthesised by transcriptional read-through between two copies of the mouse β15 gene, each of which is also transcribed separately.[22] A uniquely multiple example is the protein thypedin of Hydra which has 27 repeats of a β-thymosin sequence.[23]
To untangle the ways different hormones together influence behavior in more naturalistic contexts, we worked with the Tsimane people in Bolivia. Traditional societies like the Tsimane are not living relics of the past, but their lifeways – small, tight-knit communities that produce their own food – can reveal the kinds of situations our hormone systems are well adapted to.
TB-500 was identified as a gene that was up-regulated four-to-six fold during early blood vessel formation and found to promote the growth of new blood cells from the existing vessels. This peptide is present in wound fluid and when administered subcutaneously, it promotes wound healing, muscle building and speeds up recovery time of muscles fibres and their cells. An additional key factor of TB-500 is that it promotes cell migration through a specific interaction with actin in the cell cytoskeleton. It has been demonstrated that a central small amino acid long-actin binding domain has both blood cell reproduction and wound healing characteristics. These characteristics are uncovered by accelerating the migration of endothelial cells and keratinocytes. It also increases the production of extracellular matrix-degrading enzymes.

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Oxytocin (Oxt; /ˌɒksɪˈtoʊsɪn/) is a peptide hormone and neuropeptide. Oxytocin is normally produced by the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus and released by the posterior pituitary.[3] It plays a role in social bonding, sexual reproduction, and during and after childbirth.[4] Oxytocin is released into the bloodstream as a hormone in response to stretching of the cervix and uterus during labor and with stimulation of the nipples from breastfeeding.[5] This helps with birth, bonding with the baby, and milk production.[5][6] Oxytocin was discovered by Henry Dale in 1906.[7] Its molecular structure was determined in 1952.[8] Oxytocin is also used as a medication to facilitate childbirth.[9][10][11]
Humans are social animals. Our individual prospects depend to a significant degree on the prospects of the group(s) to which we belong, and how well we get along with the group(s). Survival means being acutely sensitive to who is on our side and who is not. So it isn’t surprising that trust matters so much to how we go about protecting ourselves. And it isn’t surprising to find the instinct for trust rooted deep in the brain.

Jump up ^ Xu J, Jian B, Chu R, Lu Z, Li Q, Dunlop J, Rosenzweig-Lipson S, McGonigle P, Levy RJ, Liang B (December 2002). "Serotonin mechanisms in heart valve disease II: the 5-HT2 receptor and its signaling pathway in aortic valve interstitial cells". The American Journal of Pathology. 161 (6): 2209–18. doi:10.1016/S0002-9440(10)64497-5. PMC 1850896. PMID 12466135.