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The hormone of love

The hormone of love

The hormone of love

Love has been written about songs and novels, recorded films, composed music, and millions of messages sent, but no recipe for success has yet been found. Many professional and popular scientific articles and publications, especially during the time of Valetin, mention oxytocin of the chemical formula C₄₃H₆₆N₁₂O₁₂S₂, as a hormone of love or a molecule of fidelity.

The hormone of love

Do you know what C₄₃H₆₆N₁₂O₁₂S₂ is?

How is oxytocin produced and why is it important for our body?

How does oxytocin affect our behavior?

Do you know what C₄₃H₆₆N₁₂O₁₂S₂ is?

Human behavior is extremely complex, so any possible wrong decisions, disappointments or actions need not be justified in chemistry alone.

The hormone oxytocin C₄₃H₆₆N₁₂O₁₂S₂ and the chemical composition of the very similar compound vasopressin certainly play a big role in understanding emotions and developing closeness between couples, but the greatest mystery of human civilization, love, should not be reduced to hormone levels alone

 

Oxytocin and vasopressin belong to a group of neuropeptide hormones whose formation is regulated by the hypothalamus, the part of the brain responsible for a number of important functions such as regulating body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, and feeding and drinking, and in addition controls the activities of the autonomic nervous system and endocrine system. It is interesting to note that the hypothalamus accounts for only 1% of total brain volume, and it plays a key role in our emotions and motivation. Oxytocin and vasopressin are produced by a series of biochemical transformations in the anterior part of the hypothalamus, in neurosecretory neurons, and through the pituitary gland they are released into the bloodstream. From a chemical point of view, these compounds differ from other hormones in that they are made up of nine amino acids and belong to a group of neuropeptides, such as encephalin, β-endorphin and neurotensin.

 

Oxytocin research began more than a hundred years ago, the chemical compound was proven in 1928, while its structure and exact amino acid arrangement were determined in 1953. It was the first cyclic peptide synthesized in the laboratory. The importance of the discovery is best evidenced by the Vincent du Vigneaud's discovery of the synthesis of oxytocintin and vesopressin in 1995 with the Nobel Prize. Unlike other hormones such as estrogen or progestone, which are chemically persistent and tabletable, oxytocin and vasopressin are hydrolyzed in contact with acids and cannot be used as tablets or capsules because gastric juice decomposes them into amino acids from of which they were built.

 

How is oxytocin produced and why is it important for our body?

Once they are in the bloodstream, oxytocin and vasopressin go to the target organs they are acting on. Oxytocin has been known for a long time to promote uterine contraction during childbirth, to act on the mammary glands so that it helps to squeeze out milk and thus to promote breastfeeding. Determining the mechanism of action of oxytocin on the uterus contributed to the administration of this compound intravenously during delivery to enhance contractions, commonly known as "drip." The target of vasopressin is the kidneys, in which it tends to retain water and is also called the antidiuretic hormone.

 

It is important to note that the hypothalamus initiates oxytocin secretion only in certain cases. For example, with the touch and the innate suction reflex, the infant initiates a complex neurological process through which the release of oxytocin begins. The process of oxytocin secretion can be activated in the mother by other stimuli, such as watching and pampering the baby or crying. After these stimuli, it was found that in a very short time of only 12-13 seconds, due to the increased pressure in the breast, milk was released as a result of the action of oxytocin on the receptors.

 

After learning about the role of oxytocin during childbirth and breastfeeding, a more detailed study of this molecule was continued, and it was discovered that oxytocin concentration changes throughout the woman's monthly cycle. After the menstrual period, the concentration increases, reaches a maximum during ovulation and then drops to the lowest values. Oxytocin concentration was also found to increase during sexual intercourse. In studies in which the subjects were imaged with MR, it was found that oxytocin concentration increased during orgasm in women and in sexual arousal and orgasm in men. In the same study, gender differences were also found, so that in men, oxytocin concentration may increase during visual stimulation while vaginal stimulation is required in women.

 

How does oxytocin affect our behavior?

Oxytocin also plays a role in creating relationships among adult individuals, it is important for bonding and the feeling of closeness and loyalty that builds up in relationships.

Since the discovery of the structure and arrangement of amino acids of oxytocin in 1953, scientists have conducted numerous studies that bring new insights into the mechanisms of action but also to influence our behavior.

 

Today, it is known which receptors bind oxytocin and vasopressin, so it has been found that the highest representation of their receptors is in the uterus, but also in the brain, and especially in the hypothalamus and amygdala, parts important for the expression of emotions.

 

Oxytocin is known to play a significant role in enhancing contractions during childbirth as well as releasing milk during breastfeeding, but it may be less well known that this hormone plays a major role in altering maternal behavior after birth. The effect of oxytocin on behavior was demonstrated in a 1979 experiment in rats in which a rat who was not born after oxytocin injection began to show maternal behavior. The smell of the baby, the touch between the mother and the baby as well as the mother's look at the baby contribute to the secretion of oxytocin and increase the attention that the mother directs to the needs of the newborn. Neuroscientists have proven significantly higher activity of the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for emotions, which, due to the increased excretion of oxytocin immediately after birth and in the first weeks of motherhood, has the effect of increased maternal engagement with the baby.

 

Based on tens of thousands of scientific publications, oxytocin is known to play a role in creating relationships among adults, as it is in the mother-child relationship, it is important for bonding and the feeling of closeness and loyalty that builds up in relationships, reduces stress, and there are indications that it may help treat autism and depression-related illnesses. People with reduced oxytocin levels spend more time alone, find it more difficult to fit into teams, and may have problems in social contacts. Functional magnetic resonance imaging results suggest that in the case of both romantic and maternal love, the same parts of the brain are activated. In women, oxytocin plays a key role in experiencing orgasm, while in men it affects the need to touch and caress a partner, which deepens the feeling of closeness and tenderness.

 

It can be said with certainty that oxytocin plays an important role in the connection and the sense of belonging to a community, whether it is a relationship between a man and a woman or same-sex communities, as well as in feeling connected with the wider community. Studying complex social relationships, psychologists have found that oxytocin can play a role in the formation of ecocentrism, ie. Owing to the increased concentration, oxytocin leads to an increase in the individual's belonging to a particular community, while at the same time recognizing the differences of those who do not belong to that group and consequently the development of reduced tolerance. For this reason, as with all other knowledge and achievements, one should be cautious about the possible overuse of the "hormone of love".

 

Love is a much more complex emotion, it requires much more commitment, attention and tenderness, and these elements certainly cannot be replaced by hormone injections, however powerful oxytocin's action may be. 

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