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Susan Kuchinskas is a journalist and author who writes about science, technology and culture. She's the author of "The Chemistry of Connection: How the oxytocin response can help you find trust,... Read More »


There's been plenty of research showing that when people inhale oxytocin, they tend to have more positive social behavior: trust, generosity,empathy and communication. But if taking one whiff of oxytocin can make younicer, will taking oxytocin regularly keep you nicer? If you take a biggerdose, will it make you even nicer?

U.C. Davis researchers wanted to find out the long-term effects of taking oxytocin, so they studied prairie voles, the monogamous rodents that first demonstrated the positive social effects of this brain chemical.

The U.C. Davis research team, led by Karen L. Bales, treateda group of 89 male prairie voles with low, medium or high doses of inhaled oxytocin. The medium dose was roughly equivalent to the amount given to human subjects in lab studies.

a group of barbie dollsIs oxytocin really evil? No, oxytocin is not evil. But not all of its effects turn you into an angel of bliss.

Science bloggers had a blast a few weeks ago, caviling at Paul Zak's Moral Molecule thesis, digging up an old study showing that soldiers defending their own troops had elevated levels of oxytocin.

One of the cool things about neuroscience is that its validating some theories of psychology and even psychoanalysis.

When I wrote The Chemistry of Connection in 2007 and 2008, I made some leaps, tying together psychology and sociology, which are based on observation, with animal studies showing that mothering helps determine the distribution and sensitivity of oxytocin receptors in the brain. For one thing, I tied the oxytocin response -- the release of oxytocin in the brain in response to positive social interactions -- to attachment styles.

A new study from Baylor College of Medicine validates this link.
A new study led by Kristin Kramer of the University of Memphis shows that manipulating oxytocin at birth can make changes in the central nervous system that only show up later in life. There's growing concern that the jolt of pitocin routinely used in U.S. hospital births could have unforeseen consequences. This study provides more ammunition. At the same time, it did not show that high doses of oxytocin interfere with social behavior later.
Why do some people quickly link up with mates who love them good and strong, while others gravitate to people who hurt them, dump them or withhold love? It's all in the neurochemistry. I've come up with a metaphor that helps explain this painful syndrome. When you're a little kid, you get used to your mom's spaghetti sauce; it's the one that tastes right, the one against which all other spaghetti sauces will be judged. (Please substitute latkes, baba ganoush, banh xeo or whatever; and for mom, use dad, another primary caregiver, or Boston Market.) When you leave home and get more experience, your tastes may broaden. But when you're a kid, it's the ONLY real spaghetti sauce. Your parents take you out to a dinner at a fancy Italian bistro, and that spaghetti just sucks.