(NaturalNews) An unusual scientific experiment involving the hormone oxytocin sheds new light on the dynamics of relationship. Known as the 'trust hormone,' oxytocin is usually associated with childbirth, lactation and bonding. Researchers are now studying the influence oxytocin has on happiness and contentment as well as harmony in partnerships.
Created in the hypothalamus region of the brain, oxytocin is responsible for a sense of love, connectedness and kindness. Research has also found the hormone to be involved in feelings of fulfillment and well-being. Dr. Paul Zak of Claremont Graduate University and his colleagues investigated how oxytocin affects happiness. Oxytocin levels were documented for each participant at the beginning of the experiment and again at the end. Additionally, surveys were completed assessing general disposition and life view. The participants were then given a gift of $24 from a stranger. Those who experienced the greatest surge of oxytocin after receiving the gift were content with their lives, quick to recover from unfortunate events and did not suffer from depression. Overall, the individuals who were happiest had the highest levels of oxytocin. According to Zak, "Our findings reveal that the biological basis for social connections - oxytocin - is part of the brain mechanism that serve to make us happy."
The science behind human harmony
Another study shows how an oxytocin nasal spray can help reduce conflict within marriage. Researchers at the University of Zurich
observed 47 couples ranging in age from 20 to 50 who were either married or cohabiting for at least a year. Each couple chose an issue where they disagreed. The participants then self-administered a five spray dose of either oxytocin or a placebo. The couples were left alone to discuss the contentious topic while the researchers filmed the interaction. Saliva samples were also taken throughout the experiment to gauge nervous system activity.
Compared to those who received the placebo, women who were given the oxytocin spray had a significant drop in nervous system activity whereas in men, it rose. Women became more sociable; men demonstrated heightened positive behavior.
Kavita Vedhara, a professor of health psychology at Nottingham University
, comments on the outcome of the study:
"What they have shown is that oxytocin appears to reduce women's emotional and physiological arousal following verbal conflict, but that the drug has the opposite effect on men, increasing both their emotional and physiological arousal. It is not clear if the increased emotion in men was always positive, but it was certainly associated with more positive behaviors during the conflict situation."Sources for this article include:
"Trust Hormone Associated with Happiness: Human Study Suggests New Role for Oxytocin" Science Daily, December 1, 2010. Retrieved on August 8, 2012 from: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101115160304.htm
"Doctors find a nasal spray that can save your marriage" Roger Dobson, Sunday, August 5, 2012, The Independent. Retrieved on August 8, 2012 from: http://www.independent.co.uk
"Oxytocin hormone benefits and side effects" Ray Sahelian, MD. Retrieved on August 8, 2012 from: http://www.raysahelian.com/oxytocin.html
"Meet 'Dr Love,' the scientist exploring what makes people good or evil" Oliver Burkeman, Guardian UK, Sunday 15 July 2012. Retrieved on August 10, 2012 from: http://www.guardian.co.ukAbout the author:
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