It’s a chemical of love, hormone of affectation, and a sexual neurotransmitter. It may even be the reason that humans and all other mammals fall in love. Existing naturally within the body, and responsible for a wide range of functions, this compound is an integral part of everyone’s hormonal and neural systems.
What is this love drug? It’s known as oxytocin, and recent findings indicate that its effects and efficiency may be affected when used alongside another hormone known as vasopressin. Vasopressin is a hormone associated with much more mundane functions, primarily water modulation and blood pressure regulation. However, it may work with oxytocin in complex ways.
What is the function of oxytocin? How does Oxytocin work? Modern research seems to suggest that oxytocin is closely related to pair bonding, the formation of romantic and platonic relationships across all mammals. In 2017, a study on the effects of oxytocin in adolescents was conducted. It measured levels of trust across its subjects through an online game scenario, on subjects given oxytocin nasal spray and those given a placebo.
Another study conducted in 1998 showed possible links between the activity of oxytocin and vasopressin. In this earlier study, the levels and subsequent effects of oxytocin and vasopressin were observed in prairie voles. Prairie voles are among the most monogamous animals in the world, making them prime candidates for pair bonding studies.
The results of these studies appeared to support beneficial notions surrounding oxytocin. In the former mentioned study, conducted in 2017, a link between nasally administered oxytocin and increased trust and relationship development was noted. Throughout the duration of the trust testing game, subjects given oxytocin appeared to be affected. In those with low levels of overall trust, some enhancement was noticed.
In the study surrounding prairie voles and the mechanisms through which oxytocin and vasopressin act, some notable relationships were observed. As bonding in the voles appeared to differ depending on oxytocin levels, it pointed towards a cellular basis for attraction. Conversely, the receptors and channels associated with vasopressin appeared to inhibit bonding.
Looking at these experiments retrospectively, a possible pattern can be seen between oxytocin and vasopressin, and the establishment and maintenance of relationships. In the study on adolescents, it appeared that oxytocin enhanced levels of trust, especially in those predisposed towards apprehension. This signifies that oxytocin may be useful in forming trust and overcoming social anxiety.
The analysis on the behavior and neurochemistry of prairie voles also poses interesting results and implications surrounding oxytocin. Although vasopressin appeared to negatively affect attraction in the voles, oxytocin showed the opposite effect. As oxytocin levels rose, so did attraction rates. This suggests similar effects in humans, as many of the same neural systems are shared.
The effects of oxytocin nasal spray are numerous and possibly beneficial for many. As research indicates, nasally sprayed oxytocin may have aphrodisiac-like effects. Through the enhancement of trust formation and the stimulation of pair bonding systems.