About Oxytocin Produced naturally by the brain, oxytocin is a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland. It has been given many different names. It is called the love hormone, cuddle chemical, bliss hormone and trust hormone. The production of oxytocin causes several effects in the body, including affecting the uterus and breast milk. It is also released into different parts of the brain which are associated with emotional, cognitive and social behaviors. Researchers are beginning to discover how oxytocin affects behavior, including how it affects love. Thus far, scientific research has shown that oxytocin has the ability to affect how mothers bond with their children, how couples bond with each other, sexual behavior, social memory and trust. It has also been shown to reduce stress responses, including anxiety. This has been demonstrated in several different species, including in dogs. Oxytocin and Canines A recent study which was conducted by Tokyo University researchers set out to determine the role that oxytocin has in the social behavior of dogs. They took 16 pet dogs and gave them a nasal spray that either contained oxytocin or saline. They took samples of their blood and urine, in addition to observing how the dogs interacted with each other and with humans. When looking at the oxytocin group, they noticed behaviors such as sniffing, licking, playing and prolonged eye contact with their owner and with other dogs. The saline group did not exhibit these behaviors. They used this information to determine that dogs who were given oxytocin showed an increase in the amount of social behaviors. They also found that when the dogs exchanged positive social behaviors with others, more oxytocin began to be produced naturally by their brain. Their findings suggest that oxytocin does indeed play a primary role in the social bonding of mammals. More studies are sure to follow as oxytocin “has attracted intense attention after the discovery of its amazing variety of behavioral functions.”

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