17 Feb /16


Oxytocin – Word of the day - EVS Translations
Oxytocin – Word of the day – EVS Translations

With Valentine’s Day approaching and the usual polarized statements it brings, we are turning to popular neuroscience for another perspective on the love-hate relationship we have with this holiday.

Should we really have a special day dedicated to our loved ones or isn’t it an everyday effort to show our affection to the people who matter the most to us? As usual the answer is subjective and there is no particular prescription to follow or a formula to be applied.

But wait, it turns out that love does have a chemical formula!
C8H11NO2 + C10H12N2O + C43H66N12O12S2 or in other words Dopamine + Serotonin + Oxytocin = LOVE.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter famous in popular science for its connection to pleasure and reward. Certain highly addictive drug substances, as much as love making, enjoying food or video games increase the dopamine release. Maybe that is why they say “love is the drug” – when you are in love, you are experiencing an addiction to the other person.

Serotonin is commonly known as the “happiness” hormone. Its release acts as an antidepressant and is used in medicine to treat depression and anxiety disorders.

And finally, oxytocin – the “love” hormone, the “cuddle” hormone, the “trust” drug – these are only a few of the nicknames for this peptide of nine amino acids.

It is naturally produced in the hypothalamus and is stored in the posterior pituitary gland. Oxytocin is responsible for social bonding, attachment, sexual reproduction in both sexes and not only. It has crucial role during and after childbirth and breast-feeding and the release of oxytocin is known to trigger maternal behaviour and trust.

The term oxytocin was coined by a team of scientist who in 1927 reported having successfully separated oxytocin from a second active substance in the posterior pituitary. The birth of the term was reported in the 22nd October issue of Science newsletter: “The repertory of the physician is to be enriched by two new extremely potent extracts obtained in purified form from a single gland by Dr. Oliver Kamm and associates working in the research laboratories of Parke Davis and Company at Detroit…The second principle is to be called oxytocin“.

Following the successful obtaining, the trade name of Oxytocin was coined and firstly reported in 1928, in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

The term derives from Ancient Greek, oxús, “swift” + tókos, “childbirth” to refer to the hormone’s ability to stimulate contractions during labour and then the production of milk.

As a medicine, oxytocin is used not only during labour, but also in the treatment of autism spectrum disorder. It is agreed that oxytocin not only enhances pro-social behaviors, but also reduces fear and anxiety. Of course, overdose of oxytocin or any other chemical can have exactly the opposite effect and be detrimental in people who don’t have any social deficiencies and should be used with caution.