Oxytocin, also known as the "cuddle hormone",influences feelings of well-being and sensitivity to public announcements and advertising.
Additional animal research shows that oxytocin may relieve stress and anxiety in social settings and may be more rewarding than cocaine to new mothers.
Recently, economic research in humans implicated oxytocin in trust and empathy. Today's new findings show that:
Oxytocin is linked to happiness and well-being. When trusted with money from a stranger, women who showed the greatest increase in oxytocin also reported being more satisfied with their lives, resilient to adverse events, and less likely to be depressed.
Oxytocin increases sensitivity to advertising. Researchers found that after sniffing oxytocin, people were more empathetic toward public service announcements and more likely to donate to their causes.
In the presence of their newborns, rat mothers' brains did not respond to learned cues associated with addictive drugs. This suggests that maternal bonds - a function of oxytocin - profoundly influence brain activity and behavior, with important implications for drug-addicted mothers.
Oxytocin reduces anxiety in stressed animals, but only if they recover in the presence of a friend. It is less effective at relieving stress for isolated animals, suggesting that social contact is an important factor in its ability to reduce anxiety.
The findings were presented at Neuroscience 2010, the Society for Neuroscience's annual meeting and the world's largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.