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The Myth of the Love Hormone

Oxytocin is the molecule that helps a mother bond with her baby

Oxytocin is the molecule that helps a mother bond with her baby, and also to fiercely protect it from those she doesn’t trust.

By Signe Cane

There is a molecule intimately involved in your sex life. However, its effects are not as straightforward as some would make you think.

Signe Cane is a freelance science writer, and editor at Wonder (www.pausetowonder.org).

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

It has been touted as a love hormone, a diet aid, a generosity increaser, pain reliever and antidepressant. Oxytocin has such a sunny reputation that it sounds almost like a too-good-to-be-true drug. This hormone, released in the brain when we have sex, hug, shake hands, nurse babies and have other kinds of social contact, has been the subject of a vast array of scientific studies over the past decade.

News stories on all the great things oxytocin can do for us crop up rather often. The claim is that all you have to do is take a whiff from a nasal spray or put a drop under your tongue and the “love hormone” will fix a multitude of issues and dramatically improve your life. You can even buy it on Amazon and keep it in your fridge for daily use.

Wake Up and Smell the Oxytocin

While the increasing public interest in oxytocin has helped create a surge in studies exploring the effects of the hormone, calling it the “cuddle chemical” or “love hormone” is a gross simplification, and researchers agree that it’s a rather misleading moniker. Professor Larry Young, a behavioural neuro­scientist and director of the Center for Translational Social Neuroscience at Emory University, points out that oxytocin may well be one of the chemicals in the cocktail of hormones that leads to sexual attraction and love. However, it’s more to do with how it sharpens our vision...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.