Revisiting the ‘Hormone of Love’

The Huffington Post:

It’s been more than a decade since oxytocin was first heralded as the “hormone of love” — a distinction that came with optimistic predictions for future drug therapies. It was just a matter of time before an oxytocin nasal spray would be available on pharmacy shelves, with the potential to cure shyness and dampen anxiety and, perhaps, even treat the social deficits of autism.

The excitement was not confined to the popular press. The early animal studies, which showed a link between oxytocin and sociability, generated considerable interest in scientific circles as well, and indeed led to a decade of intense study of the hormone. That search has in some ways been disappointing, producing inconsistent and weak effects, but it has not been fruitless. Instead, it has led scientists to take a still hopeful but much more nuanced view of the hormone of love. The question now is not whether oxytocin has beneficial effects, but under what circumstances and for whom does it have these effects?

That’s the view of Jennifer Bartz of McGill University, one of the leading researchers in an ongoing reevaluation of the evidence about oxytocin. Her position now, which she discussed this week at the meeting of the Association for Psychological Science in Washington, D.C., is that the benefits of the hormone — including an oxytocin drug, in the form of a nasal spray — depend on both the person and the situation. Therapies of the future, she predicts, will be much more individualized than originally predicted.

Read the whole story: The Huffington Post

Wray Herbert is an author and award-winning journalist who writes two popular blogs for APSWe’re Only Human and Full Frontal Psychology.

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