The name of the magic hormone: Oxytocin. Mothers spill it during breast feeding, women spill it during orgasm. For years, physicians know about the role, this messenger plays – but only now they are coming up with adduced experimental results. We are herewith declaring new climaxes in the exploration of the body's love affairs.
Oxytocin holds pole position
About a year ago, for example, a research team at the Zurich University caused a stir. The psychologist Markus Heinrichs of the Psychological Institute was able to prove for the first time, that Oxytocin plays an important role in human trust. As a matter of fact, test persons, who were administered Oxytocin through their noses, showed a significantly higher trust to other people than probands administered a placebo. In addition, the experiments made by the Zurich scientists prove, that the hormone specifically increases the individual readiness to take social risks with other people. "With our studies we have discovered the first bricks of the biological basis for trust", explains co-author Michael Kosfeld, and: "Our results open the most exciting perspectives to find more bricks of the biology of pro-social behavior in the near future."
In fact, it was known before the Swiss studies, that Oxytocin plays a key role in non-human mammals' couple bonding. It not only determines motherly care and the social ability to bond, but also the sexual behavior of the animals. And the hormone decreases timidity and the neuroendrocrine answer to social stress. For example male prairie voles, which have numerous receptors for Oxytocin in the reward area of their brain, are monogamous and take care of their offspring. The related mountain voles, which have hardly any receptors for Oxytocin in the reward centers of their brain, are polygamous and the males do not show any parental ambitions.
That sex is good for people, is easy to prove given the role of the hormone. Because Oxytocin is distributed during the orgasm – and puts consecutive reactions in motion, as the Swiss psychologist Markus Heinrichs found out. He proved, that Oxytocin reduces timidity and increases the stress-compensating effects.
"Viewed from a strictly scientific point, Oxytocin is a cyclical peptide, produced in the brain of all mammals. If it comes, via the blood stream, into the body, it causes the contraction of the smooth muscles, as e. g. the uterus during a woman's orgasm or the deferent duct of the man contracts rhythmically.", explains the chemist and bestseller-novelist Rolf Froböse the functionality of the substance. Just how complex the relations between love, orgasm and hormones are, describes Froböse in his book "Lust und Liebe. Alles nur Chemie?" – more than 300 pages were needed to embrace the global status quo in the matter of love research.
Sex does you good – but only with Oxytocin in your blood
One of the best known researchers in this field is Richard Ivell, Professor at the Institute for Hormone Research Melbourne University. For the researcher Ivell, describing his work in detail in Froböse's book, the blessings of the hormone cannot be ignored: "It should be down to the Oxytocin, that even the worst cases of trouble in the relationship can be cooled down with a little amorous tête-à-tête".
During one of his studies to find out about the emotional function of Oxytocin, Ivell had students to examine their blood first. Then the scientist encouraged them to masturbate. A second blood test showed, what Ivell had reckoned: The Oxytocin content after the experimental act had increased by a multiple. In a second series of tests, the group had to masturbate again "in the name of science and research", as Froböse wrote in his book. But prior to the experimental work, the test persons were administered an Oxytocin blocker. Actually they did not feel any difference in the feelings of lust, but without the body's own hormone production they had to realize "they did – contrary to the first session – not enjoy at all", as the chemist Froböse reports.