Tuesday, 09 Dec, 2008 Health & Fitness

Oxytocin Lowers Stress In Couple Conflicts


The intake of the hormone oxytocin has shown to decrease the level of "stress" hormone cortisol in couples during conflicts, and also to stimulate positive behavior, according to a recent article published by Swiss psychologists in the Biological Psychiatry magazine.

Previous researches have shown that this neuropeptide, present in the brain, regulates social behavior. It is mainly responsible for the feeling of trust.

It is known that oxytocin is a central nervous hormone that brings about strong contractions of the uterus during pregnancy and delivery, and that it is also responsible for the stimulation of human breast milk secretion.

Beate Ditzen from the Psychology Institute of the Zurich University and her colleagues studied the role of the hormone in the regulation of partners' behavior. Scientists asked 47 married heterosexual couples from 20 to 50 years old to reproduce conflicts caused by problems that most frequently induce them.

Before the beginning of the so-called "couple scandals", a number of participants received oxytocin in the form of intranasal spray, and another part received placebo.

The level of "stress" hormone cortisol in the saliva of the participants in the experiment has been taken under observation. Their behavior was being registered on a video tape and was analyzed by psychologists who observed the elements of positive behavior - laughing, agreement, listening; negative - criticism, humiliation of the partner, the tendency to interrupt him/her; and nonverbal interaction behaviour, such as eye contact, mimicry and moves.

"The couples that received oxytocin were behaving more positively than the couples that received placebo", Ditzen affirms in the message of the university.

The results of the experiment showed that oxytocin increased the length of positive communication behavior, and, especially, positive behaviour during stress situations in human relationships. Besides, those who received this hormone, had the level of salivary cortisol lower than people from the group that received placebo.

Such experiments have never been made on humans before, all being made on nonhuman mammals. In high social species of animals, oxytocin has shown to increase pair bonding and social communication, thus being similar to the results received in the experiments made on humans.

Posted by summer_rain

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