Oxytocin —the so-called “love hormone” — is being increasingly shown to trigger a wide variety of physical and psychological effects in both women and men.
The hormone’s influence on our behavior and physiology originates in the brain, where it’s produced by the by a structure called the hypothalamus, and then transfers to the pituitary gland which releases into the bloodstream.. Like antennas picking up a signal, oxytocin receptors are found on cells throughout the body. Levels of the hormone tend to be higher during both stressful and socially bonding experiences, according to the American Psychological Association.
“It’s like a hormone of attachment, you might say,” said Carol Rinkleib Ellison, a clinical psychologist in private practice in Loomis, California and former assistant clinical psychiatry professor at the University of California, San Francisco. “It creates feelings of calm and closeness.”
Thought scientists have long known about oxytocin’s rolein breastfeeding and childbirth, “We’re just learning more about it now,” Ellison said.
A stream of studies in the last decade have focused on oxytocin’s effects on body and mind. Here’s a look at what we’ve learned.