Oxytocin is a neuropeptide hormone, produced in the hypothalamus and released into the bloodstream by the posterior pituitary gland. Its secretion depends on electrical activity of neurons in the hypothalamus – it is released into the blood when these cells are excited. Oxytocin plays important roles in social bonding, sexual reproduction, childbirth, and the period after childbirth.
Oxytocin biological functions
Oxytocin has peripheral (hormonal) actions, and also has actions in the brain. Its actions are mediated by specific oxytocin receptors (oxytocin receptor). Studies and scientific research have looked at oxytocin’s role in various behaviors, including orgasm, social recognition, pair bonding, anxiety, in-group bias, situational lack of honesty, autism, and maternal behaviors. In the brain, oxytocin acts as a chemical messenger and has been shown to be important in human behaviours including sexual arousal, recognition, trust, anxiety and mother–infant bonding.
How is Oxytocin release controlled?
Oxytocin is controlled by a positive feedback mechanism where release of the hormone causes an action that stimulates more of its own release. When contraction of the uterus starts, for example, oxytocin is released, which stimulates more contractions and more oxytocin to be released. In this way, contractions increase in intensity and frequency.
Oxytocin and pregnancy
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. This helps with birth, bonding with the baby, and milk production. Manufactured oxytocin is sometimes given to induce labour if it has not started naturally or it can be used to strengthen contractions to aid childbirth.
Oxytocin and Estrogens
Estrogen has been found to increase the secretion of oxytocin and to increase the expression of its receptor, the oxytocin receptor, in the brain. In women, a single dose of estradiol has been found to be sufficient to increase circulating oxytocin concentrations.
Oxytocin and Sexual Health
Oxytocin is also important sex hormone that plays a significant role in the sexual function of women and mediates the bond between men and women. In women, there are measurable decreases in blood oxytocin associated with sexual dysfunction.
Oxytocin and social behavior
Oxytocin has psychological effects, including influencing social behavior and emotion. Administration of oxytocin to people increases trust, generosity and empathy, and reduces their fear of social betrayal. People who received intranasal oxytocin, even after surviving social alienation, increasingly trusted others. On the other hand, administration of oxytocin in human trials, in some cases, has also led to increased envy, joy in the pain of others, prejudice and possible aggression.
Oxytocin, mood and antidepressant-like effects
Oxytocin induces feelings of satisfaction and confidence (trust in others). Oxytocin also reduces stress responses and produces antidepressant-like effects in animal models of depression. These effects have been seen in a number of species. In certain circumstances, oxytocin appears to indirectly inhibit the release of stress hormones such as cortisol. Deficit of oxytocin may be involved in the pathophysiology of depression in humans and low oxytocin level has been linked to depressive symptoms. Therefore, oxytocin has been suggested as a treatment for depressive disorders.
However, the antidepressant-like effects of oxytocin are not blocked by a selective antagonist of the oxytocin receptor, suggesting that these effects are not mediated by the oxytocin receptor. As such, the antidepressant-like effects of oxytocin may be mediated by modulation of a different target, perhaps the vasopressin V1A receptor where oxytocin is known to weakly bind as an agonist.
Oxytocin may also play a role in anger management. Research has indicated that certain polymorphisms of the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene are associated with an increased tendency to react angrily to situations. In particular, differences in OXTR gene expression appear to affect the regulation of the relationship between alcohol and aggressive behavior.
Problems associated with low levels of oxytocin
Low oxytocin levels have been linked to autism. In women, there lack of oxytocin associated with sexual dysfunction, also a lack of oxytocin in a nursing mother would prevent the milk-ejection reflex and prevent breastfeeding.
Risks of high oxytocin levels
High levels of oxytocin have been linked to benign prostatic hyperplasia, a condition which affects the prostate in more than half of men over the age of 50.
Oxytocin and autism
Low oxytocin levels have been linked to autism and autistic spectrum disorders (e.g. Asperger syndrome) – a key element of these disorders being poor social functioning. Some scientists believe oxytocin could be used to treat these disorders. In 2013, a small study suggested that oxytocin levels in the brain affected how 17 children perceived a series of social and non-social images.
Research and Oxytocin clinical use
Oxytocin has been proposed as a possible treatment for social phobia, autism, and postpartum depression. Research shows that it may benefit people with an autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), anxiety, but also irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Oxytocin isalso prescribed as a drug for obstetric and gynecological reasons and can help in childbirth.
Scientifically investigated possible benefits of Oxytocin
- In pregnant women, helps with birth, bonding with the baby, and milk production
- Plays a significant role in the sexual function of women and mediates the bond between men and women
- Has psychological effects, including influencing social behavior and emotion
- Induces feelings of satisfaction and confidence
- Reduces stress responses and produces antidepressant-like effects
- Possible treatment for social phobia, autism, postpartum depression and irritable bowel syndrome
Oxytocin possible side-effects
Oxytocin risks to the baby
The use of oxytocin in pregnant and breastfeeding women must be assessed and controled by a doctor! Because oxytocin may cause serious or life-threatening side effects in the newborn baby, including:
- Slow heartbeats or other abnormal heart rate
- Problems with breathing, muscle tone, and other signs of health
- A seizure
- Eye problems
What is oxytocin?
Oxytocin is a neuropeptide hormone, produced in the hypothalamus and released into the bloodstream by the posterior pituitary gland.
What does oxytocin do?
Oxytocin plays important roles in social bonding, sexual reproduction, childbirth, and the period after childbirth. In the brain, oxytocin acts as a chemical messenger and has been shown to be important in human behaviours including sexual arousal, recognition, trust, anxiety and mother–infant bonding.
What happens when you take oxytocin?
The brain releases oxytocin into the bloodstream during physical contact such as stroking, hugging, and sex. When this happens, blood pressure lowers and you feel calm, safe, and trusting.
Can you overdose on oxytocin? / Can you have too much oxytocin?
Too much oxytocin in ordinary adults may lead to emotional problems: New research suggests that oxytocin must be used carefully because too much oxytocin in healthy young adults can result in oversensitivity to the emotions of others.
Do guys get oxytocin from cuddling?
Yes, when couples touch and cuddle, in this way the oxytocin level is maintained at a high level and the binding between them is further stabilized.
What does Oxytocin do in males?
Oxytocin has various social and physiological functions in the brain and the body, but is sometimes referred to as the “love hormone” due to its role in social bonding.
How long does oxytocin high last?
For couples who stayed together, oxytocin levels remained stable over a six-month period. These findings suggest that oxytocin in the first months of romantic love may serve as an index of relationship duration.
What triggers oxytocin release?
Oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus and released into the bloodstream by the posterior pituitary gland. Its secretion depends on electrical activity of neurons in the hypothalamus.
Does crying release oxytocin?
Crying for long periods of time releases oxytocin and endogenous opioids, otherwise known as endorphins. These feel-good chemicals can help ease both physical and emotional pain. Oxytocin can give you a sense of calm or well-being. It’s another example of how crying is a self-soothing action.
How long does a hug have to be to release oxytocin?
And one of the most effective ways to stimulate the oxytocin is to hug someone for a time period of no less than twenty seconds.
Can a man take oxytocin?
In men, as in women, oxytocin increase bonding.
Does kissing release oxytocin?
Yes, oxytocin is also released during orgasm, kissing and foreplay.
Do Men produce oxytocin?
In the male, the small peptide hormone oxytocin is produced in similar quantities within the hypothalamo-pituitary magnocellular system as in the female.
Which cells produce oxytocin?
In the hypothalamus, oxytocin is made in magnocellular neurosecretory cells of the supraoptic and paraventricular nuclei, and is stored in Herring bodies at the axon terminals in the posterior pituitary. It is then released into the blood from the posterior lobe (neurohypophysis) of the pituitary gland.
The use of oxytocin in pregnant and breastfeeding women must be assessed and controled by a doctor! Because oxytocin may cause serious or life-threatening side effects in the newborn baby!
Research use for psychological effects (achieving a sense of satisfaction): A scientific study conducted to examine the psychological reactions (mood and emotional changes) in men depending on the dose of oxytocin found that at a dose of 67 mcg of oxytocin, signs of good mood and satisfaction were identified from the volunteers’ faces, however a lower dose of 50 mcg oxytocin had no effect in this respect.