Social Media Use May Boost Oxytocin Levels

Posted: April 26th, 2011 | Author: skwilcox | Filed under: Empathy, News, Social Media | No Comments »

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.


Help for Depression: Oxytocin Nasal Spray

Posted: October 19th, 2010 | Author: skwilcox | Filed under: Empathy, Healing, News | Tags: Mental Health, Oxytocin | No Comments »
 

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.


Sagittal MRI slice at the midline.Image via Wikipedia

 

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.

To read more about the MUSC study, go here.

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Help Ease Shyness With Oxytocin Nasal Spray

Posted: September 25th, 2010 | Author: skwilcox | Filed under: Empathy, News, Shyness | No Comments »
Empathy (software)
Image via Wikipedia

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!

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Why Oxytocin is So Calming for Women

Posted: March 3rd, 2010 | Author: skwilcox | Filed under: Empathy, News | No Comments »

Women, so it seems, rely on their friends to help them through rough, stressful patches much more than men. Some research supports this observation. What is it about women's friends that helps them deal with life's stresses so much? Well, along with activities like kissing, skin to skin contact, massage and so on, oxytocin levels are increased in women simply by connecting with friends.

Is there some anthropological reason for this? Probably. But the point is that when a person is undergoing stress, a potentially harmful hormone called cortisol is released. Now cortisol has its purpose, but in our modern society, the fight or flight reflex that it plays a role in is triggered a lot more often than is really needed (when was the last time you had to run from a pack of wild dogs that wanted the game you just hunted?) Oxytocin helps balance out the effects of cortisol. Women appear to be more receptive to oxytocin, and can up their levels without even being touched–just talking to good friends can do it.

To read more on this go to this link.


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    Her Big Fat Geek Wedding

    Posted: February 12th, 2010 | Author: skwilcox | Filed under: Empathy, News | No Comments »

    A science writer for the New Scientist magazine was recently married, and she decided to turn the occasion into an experiment. She had a scientist who studies oxytocin take blood samples from her, the groom, their family members and people in the wedding party both before and after the wedding.

    Some of what they found, even though it's not a huge, statistically valid study, is really good news for people who are interested in using oxytocin spray as a way to help them have better relationships. Not only did the people tested at the wedding have higher levels of oxytocin, the scientist who did the study suggested that they were brought closer together emotionally through that extra oxytcin. On top of that, they were probably more empathetic or sensitive to each other. So we know that oxytocin spray causes most of the same benefits of oxytocin released in the brain. Now we see that it gives even more of a boost to people hoping to get along better with other people.

    Oh, and for the men in the audience, women seem to react more strongly to the positive effects of oxytocin. So next time you're at a wedding, just remember that there's not going to be much better of a time to try your latest line–she's ready to listen!

    (Of course, you could bring that feeling with you wherever you go, with oxytocin spray. Just go to the home page to learn more about that).

    Click the link to read the whole New Scientist article.