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'Love Hormone' May Boost Men's Memories of Mom -- Good or Bad
Date:11/29/2010

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Nov. 29 (HealthDay News) -- A study involving men and their mothers suggests a new function for the "love hormone" oxytocin in human behavior.

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."

Another expert agreed.

"People were thinking that oxytocin was going to generally make things more positive but depending on how someone's attachment really was, it just made the memory of that come back stronger," said Keith A. Young, vice chair for research in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine in Temple. "The oxytocin seemed to tap into the actual memory rather than making everything better."

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 gloati
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