MONDAY, Nov. 29 (HealthDay News) -- A study involving men and their mothers suggests a new function for the "love hormone" oxytocin in human behavior.
Grown men who inhaled a synthetic form of oxytocin, a naturally occurring chemical, recalled intensified fond memories of their mothers if, indeed, Mom was all that caring.
But if men initially reported less close relationships with Mom, oxytocin seemed to encourage them to dwell on the negative.
These findings, published online Nov. 29 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, appear to contradict public perception about oxytocin's beneficial effects, the researchers say.
"There's a popular idea that oxytocin has these ubiquitous positive effects on social interactions, but this suggests that it depends on the person to whom it's given and the context in which it's given," said study lead author Jennifer Bartz. "It's not this universal attachment panacea."
Oxytocin, which is produced in abundance when a mother breast-feeds her baby, is known as the "bonding" hormone and may actually have therapeutic applications.
One study found that people with high-functioning autism or Asperger's syndrome were better able to "catch" social cues after inhaling the hormone.
Oxytocin has also been linked to trust, empathy and generosity, but may also spark the less attractive qualities of jealousy and gloating.
By fostering attachment, oxytocin is considered critical to survival of an individual, and also to survival of the species.
"It's what allows the infant to survive to maturity and to reproduce by ensuring the caregiver stays close to the infant and provides nurturance and support to an otherwise defenseless infant," explained Bartz, assistant professor of psychiatry at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.
Those initial experiences with an early caregi
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