Yet another study on the behaviors that affect oxytocin levels in the human body has come out, this time involving social media such as Facebook and Twitter. The short version is that volunteers had their blood drawn before logging in to their social media account and again afterward. Apparently the amount of the "love hormone" in the test subjects' blood increased following their FB or Twitter sessions.
This is an interesting study, but one that clearly requires more follow-up. I'm going to get my hands on a copy of the study itself to see if some of my questions are answered in it, but I wonder just what types of interactions the test subjects had on FB and Twitter. In other words, most times I'm pretty upbeat when I'm talking to friends on FB, but every once in a while someone turns a little, shall we say, ugly, and I can actually feel my anger rising while I'm staring at that calming blue-bordered screen (sad, I know). I can't imagine I'm getting an oxytocin boost during those times. Anyway, that's just one of the random thoughts going through my head upon hearing about the study.
If you've got a couple of minutes, I found an interview with the study author and have re-posted it here for your viewing pleasure.
As we approach the Christmas season, our thoughts turn to the old truisms we heard growing up. You know: "it's better to give than to receive" or the variant "it is in giving that we receive." USA Today recently published an article examining human generosity.
Before getting into the substance of the article, I do have to say that the story's opening kind of cracked me up…which was not the intended effect from the author, I'm sure. But seriously, when you point out that we commonly describe generosity as "coming from the heart" when, "in fact, the origins of giving probably are deep in the brain's circuitry," does the writer really think that anyone in the western world still thinks the heart actually controls emotions? I'll answer my own rhetorical question: of course they don't think that, but it was irritating, yet amusing, nonetheless.
Anyway, on to the real story. The University of Notre Dame received funding to study generosity from a multi-disciplinary perspective. Researchers there are looking at people's willingness to give using economics, sociology, psychology, neurology, etc. This could prove to be very useful information, not only for people and groups in need that may benefit from increased giving, but also to those who are-or may become-more generous. Studies have shown that people who give of their time, money, and even blood are happier and likely to live longer than those who don't.
One angle this study is pursuing is the link between oxytocin and charitable giving. The current state of research doesn't seem to indicate that oxytocin causes people to be generous, but it does appear to enhance the good feelings experienced by someone when they do give. The next logical step is that someone is more likely to continue, if not increase, their generosity due to the oxytocin boost they experienced in previous bouts of giving.
So put some thought into your gift-giving this year. You'll be happier, and those around you will be, too.
A study done by researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), tested the effects of oxytocin nasal spray on patients with depression. By using brain imaging technology, a group of depressed patients that was given a dose of intranasal oxytocin was compared in their ability to "read the mind in the eyes" versus that of a control group. Key regions of the brains of the test subjects showed more activity than in the untreated group.
This is potentially good news for those suffering from depression. Although the study makes no claims regarding oxytocin's effects on those without depression, an interesting finding is that the treatment group – those who received oxytocin – is less disconnected from others in a social setting. This allows for greater interactions, and that's what we've come to expect from this hormone.
If you've been following along here, this probably won't be much of a surprise to you. A new study in the journal Psychological Science suggests that oxytocin (yes, even in spray form) may help overcome shyness. It seems to tie back to the empathetic response that's enhanced by raising oxytocin levels.
In a previous post, we pointed out research that demonstrated increased empathy by making the person exposed to our favorite hormone more finely attuned to the facial expressions of other people. This added empathy boost is thought to help shy people connect better in conversations, thereby easing some of their anxieties. Additionally, oxytocin has been shown to have a general calming effect (which way does the causation arrow point? stay tuned, I guess). Put these things together and the shy person begins an encounter more calm and is better able to interact with other people. Win-win!
Well, Dr. Zak – who really might as well change his name to Dr. Oxytocin – is at it again. This time he's examining whether stock market bubbles have a physiological basis. You guessed it: oxytocin. The hormone may play a role in investors' willingness to trust people they don't know well, which may have led to irrational investment decisions and market bubbles. For more information on his talk, go to the press release at http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20100830005994/en.
[Editor's Note: The mention of a researcher's name, as in this blurb and several previous items, should NEVER be mistaken for an endorsement, either direct or implied, of the content of this website. The "Oxytocin News" section is merely the place where we highlight interesting news items related to oxytocin and point, where possible, to the original source material.]
However, in tip #1 (Snuggle, Don't Grope) we find this interesting quote: "Did you know that studies show that if you hug for partner for 30 seconds it raises her oxytocin levels? Oxytocin is a hormone that makes us feel loving and connected and helps put us in the mood. So start with a hug."
30 seconds! Hug your wife for 30 seconds!! You can do that, I promise. It will make her feel great, and you may, just may find a fantastic reward for your thoughtfulness.
Psychology Today recently published an article comparing monogamy in certain types of animals, including prairie voles, meadow voles and barn swallows, with each other and with humans. Prairie voles and humans had the most oxytocin receptors and were also more regularly monogamous than most of the other animals in the study. Meadow voles, which generally are not monogamous, became a lot more faithful to a single mate when researchers increased the number of oxytocin receptors in their brains.
An oxytocin nasal spray like Liquid Trust can go a long way toward making your conversation with someone new a great success. However, if the possibility of being turned down keeps you from even getting close enough to start the conversation, you'll never get the chance to develop that deeper connection. I've found a couple of videos that can help you start to ease that anxiety and get you close enough so you can take the next step. Actually, one video will help in that way. The other will only work if you're…well, if you're Benny Hill.
This is jusssst a little bit late for Valentine's Day, but the suggestions from Dr. Zak, probably the best-known researcher of oxytocin's behavioral effects, are fantastic for any time of the year if you'd like to get closer to someone special.
The five suggestions in the video have been shown to increase oxytocin naturally. Be sure to watch the video, but here are the tips: