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negative behaviors
newborn child
first trimester
newborn baby
sum of money
selfishness
Oxytocin, The Cuddle Hormone: Can It Really Live Up To All Of The Research?
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Oxytocin, the Cuddle Hormone: Can It Really Live Up to All Of the Research?

When a woman gives birth, she feels a connection to her newborn child, something she describes as the most powerful feeling she has ever had in her entire life. But, not all women feel the same level of connection with their newborn baby - leading scientists to wonder what it is that makes that connection and what can make it stronger in some women than in others. Doctors know that women exude a hormone called oxytocin and that that hormone's levels increase during pregnancy and now a number of research studies are looking how that hormone affects a woman's behavior.

The first of the studies, performed at the Bar Ilan University in Israel, measured the levels of oxytocin in women throughout their entire pregnancies, including the first month after the child was born. In addition to studying the levels of that hormone, the researchers there looked at other factors including how long and how the women looked at her baby, how many times she initiated touch and how she talked to the baby. They also used a scaled to measure the level of affection that the woman was exhibiting toward the child. That study concluded that the most important timing of the flood of oxytocin came in the first trimester of a woman's pregnancy, correlating high levels of the love hormone during those early months with a deeper, more secure bond after birth.

Another study, led by Paul Zak at the Claremont University in California split people into two groups. Each group was given either oxytocin or a placebo and then asked to split a sum of money with complete strangers. That study concluded that the people who were given oxytocin were more generous, giving eighty percent more money to the strangers.

A study in Australia has shown that oxytocin affects all of the social emotions, which could have some negative drawbacks to any further studies with humans and oxytocin. For instance, a person who was already angry or aggressive could become even more so after a dose of oxytocin. Selfishness or other negative behaviors could also be overly enhanced after the use of the hormone.

Duke University has done a study with Rhesus monkeys to better gauge how those negative behaviors could be impacted and how to counteract their affects. Rhesus monkeys were used because they are typically less interested in social cooperation than other types of monkeys. In the initial stages of the study, the monkeys did finally start cooperating with one another after being given doses of oxytocin but only after several hours of treatment and only if they were rewarded as well.


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