Love affects everybody in about every way imaginable. Unique to mammalian animals, love is also a vital evolutionary development that perhaps gave rise to our civilization. Although this emotion of affection is complicated, and in some ways poorly understood, many mechanisms and factors behind it have been studied quite well.
An essential chemical behind love is oxytocin. Oxytocin stimulates several receptors, has been clinically linked to the development, maintenance, and expression of love across mammals, and especially humans. Through the release and supplementation of this neurotransmitter and hormone, the benefits of interpersonal connection may be experienced and increased by anyone.
In a study performed in 1998, researchers found that oxytocin biosynthesis was a key facilitator of love within prairie voles. Prairie voles are regarded for being highly monogamous, usually mating for life. The mechanism behind this is believed to be a release of oxytocin and stimulation of oxytocin receptors throughout the brain.
In the experiment on the voles, researchers monitored levels of oxytocin and the voles propensity to mate. In these experiments, the scientists noted a link between oxytocin and increased pair bonding. That is, when the voles had higher levels of oxytocin, they appeared to mate more readily. Vice versa as well, voles who mated had demonstrably higher levels of oxytocin.
In another experiment on human subjects, the loving effects of oxytocin were noted again. Over 100 adolescent test subjects were administered oxytocin intranasally. Some were given placebos however. They were then instructed to play a trust based game that recorded their overall confidence in family members and strangers alike.
The results of the adolescent study showed potential links between oxytocin, trust, and possible indications towards love. Test subjects that were given oxytocin appeared to demonstrate higher levels of trust. This was especially true in those predisposed to apprehension through mental illness. Subjects given the placebo did not display significant increases in trust.
An analysis and report compiled in 1998 summed up the effects of love deprivation, its side effects, and its relationship to oxytocin. Researchers working on the study found that lower levels of perceived love were linked to higher rates of mental illness. Furthermore, these subjective feelings were associated with psychosomatic side effects. In summary, those who felt less love became quite literally love sick.
The prior experiments demonstrate the potential for oxytocin to treat such love sickness. In prairie voles, oxytocin has been observed throughout various courtship and mating behaviors. This suggests that oxytocin may be instrumental in forming such bonds. Additionally, the formation of pair bonds and trust levels in adolescents suggests that oxytocin may be vital in romantic relationships.
These studies reflect the importance of love, and its relation to mental illness and physical side effects. The presence of oxytocin appears to aid in the romantic relationship process, and its supplementation may be of use in accelerating such processes. With chronic loneliness becoming more and more of an issue for many individuals in our digital world, oxytocin may be of benefit for many.