Peptide of the week: Oxytocin

November 22, 2010

Ever want to feel a sprinkling of the magic life-is-good fairy dust without going outside and sweating your ass off for endorphins? Here’s how you do it. Pet your dog. Or have a baby, but petting your dog is much easier and less time-consuming.

I recently watched the Nova episode, Dogs Decoded. Along with puppies, puppies and some more puppies, the documentary went through a bunch of cool research on how we bond with our dogs including with one of the many super cool peptide brain chemicals.

Oxytocin, the empathy hormone, is released by our friendly neighborhood drug dealer, the pituitary gland. It encourages contentment, reduces anxiety and increases feelings of security and trust. Mothers experience a huge release of oxytocin after giving birth so that they love the child who so recently caused them excruciating pain. The pituitary also shoots out some oxytocin during romantic endeavors; apparently to discourage cheating. Finally, we experience oxytocin highs when we pet our dogs, and our dogs do too.

So next time you or your dog gets that anxious, stress-o look in your eye (it also turns out that dogs are the only species on earth besides humans that can read human eye movement), plop down with your pooch for a nice long belly rub.



2 Responses to “Peptide of the week: Oxytocin”

  1. Jill said

    Claire! This is some really interesting stuff. Thanks for reminding me how cool science is. Happy skiing! (Do you and Raven ever try skijouring?).

  2. emo said

    Claire, when I initially glanced at the title, I thought you were writing a/b oxycontin. What a relief to read about peptides instead.

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