PreFrontal Nudity

The brain exposed

The Problems with the Love Hormone

Your relationship with your parents growing up can often negatively impact your happiness in your romantic relationships. Understanding the neuroscience behind this can help you take control of the situation. Read More

Gee, this is really

Gee, this is really interesting. I'd like to know more about how I might react to oxytocin, given my strict upbringing and bad-ish relationship with my father. I feel as though I've overcome a lot of my childhood by "letting go" of it after analyzing it from all perspectives, but it would be interesting to see if that holds any weight to how my brain will actually react.

RE: Gee, this is really

Well your important reaction to oxytocin is how you feel when you start to get close with someone in a romantic relationship. If you don't feel like they improve your happiness and reduce your stress even though you feel really close, then you may need to work on your oxytocin system.

Not a rule

I'm sort of torn by this research because although I grew up in a highly dysfunctional home (parents argued every day, alcoholic mother, verbally/physically abusive father, detached emotionally on both sides, often forced to "watch over my mother" in suicide watch) but I have had mostly overly-attached relationships with toxic men. I've read a lot about the psychological aspect of why I put up with them, but apparently, I had no shortage of oxytocin binding me to every bad choice. As a mother of three, I was very loving and gently-nurturing with each child.

It's not a rule, but interesting to know. I wonder how much more loving I would be had I grown up in a loving and peaceful environment?

RE: Not a rule

You're absolutely right that it's not a rule. There is always an interaction between your genetics and your environment. Sometimes one wins out over the other and sometimes they meet in the middle. Sounds like you're a great mother, and I don't think that you would have necessarily been even more so had you grown up in a more loving environment. Your reaction to neurotransmitters can be context dependent. Sounds like that side of your oxytocin system that got most effect was your relationship to men. That would have almost certainly been different had you had a different relationship with your father. It's still something you can work on though if it's important to you.

I'd be cautious about

I'd be cautious about assigning "why" to the research outcomes. Science can tell us results of tests, but not why it happens. Research conclusions can be based on the researchers' life experience or even bias, or current thought.
Someone who never had good touches growing up, I can see being depressed and looking for love in the wrong places. However, two things: Practically every family has some dysfunction. Even families in which there was little dysfunction can have similar outcomes. There are more factors involved in our dating habits and personal insecurities than can be guessed at by the researchers' data collection.

Now about oxytocin. It has different effects on women and men.

For women, whenever they have sex (or give birth, nurse their baby, or even to a small extent hug, watch a chick flick etc.), oxytocin is released. Sex, childbirth and nursing are the strongest. Oxytocin is released in order to bond them.
For men, when they have sex, or to a small extent hug and do other acts which stimulate oxytocin, the acts do not have the same bonding effect, unless they ALREADY love the woman. So, it actually works the opposite of women. Men also release oxytocin when they hug their moms, but not a woman they don't know and love. WOW.

That means women who think having sex will make the man love her (which is oxytocin's effect on women), are mistaken. It's not true as to men.
That means men who are men--not toxic boys--want a relationship with YOU not what you will give up, and not your body parts.
That means the guys who wait until they are in love (or married), or will wait for you are the keepers.
It makes sense why in the old days people waited until they were married. Today that's countercultural--downright rebellious ;) --based on the way sex has permeated everything and how soon we have sex.

More interesting facts--women on contraceptives choose different men from when not on contraceptives. On the pill etc., they tend to choose the bad boys. When they go off the pill, they would have chosen a different guy (a man). Also, women on contraceptives are LESS attractive to men. These are not absolutes but tendencies, and the research is there. Even tho we can have sex "any time" when on contraceptives, it doesn't make us happier. RRRgh. Another bunch of WOWs when I found out.

Women get the raw end of the deal either way, unless we change how we think and what we do. Natural FP is 'way better.

Explains my ex...

This reminded me of my ex-boyfriend. His father was extremely strict and a jerk to him growing up, and his mom just allowed it. Even though he has a good relationship w/ his mom now, this really explains a lot...

I'm hoping this is "good" science....

...and that the researchers verified, somehow, that the family relationships reported by the participants were, indeed, reported accurately. Because otherwise there could be a bit old confound affecting the results. "People who PERCEIVED bad family relationships are not positively affected by oxytocin...".

RE: I'm hoping this is "good" science...

It certainly is good science, though just because it is good science doesn't mean it's free of limitations. All scientific studies have limitations. In this case you're absolutely right that the study couldn't differentiate between people who actually had bad family relationships and those who just perceived it as such. I'd argue though that what's most important in a child's relationship with their parents is the child's perception. It doesn't matter how much the parents love the child, only that the child feels loved. I would say almost all parents love their children very much, but depending on the biology of the child more or less may need to be done to help that child feel loved.

I certainly never suggested

I certainly never suggested that "good" science does not have limitations, rather that "good" science does not attempt to draw conclusions beyond what the data/method allow. On the surface (necessary as no references are appended to the post) it would appear to be the case that improper conclusions were drawn. IF it is children's PERCEPTIONS of parenting that covary with oxytocin, then it isn't necessarily problems with the parenting at all. Perhaps the research reveals problems with the oxytocin system, which in turn affects perceptions of relationships in general.

certainly never suggested

Well said, logical conclusion. I think is a combination of both. Environmental and biological. Not all is due to parenting but also to DNA's determining our oxytoxin levels. Great discoveries/strides have been achieved through recent researchs in Epigenetics dispelling the old old prevailing belief that our DNA is inmutabble and rigid. And of course, thanks goodnes in the field of behaviour modification psychology.

RE: I certainly never suggested

You are absolutely correct that there are other possible interpretations of the data. I have chosen to present one interpretation. Thanks for providing alternative explanations.

And thanks for clarifying. I realize I misinterpreted your initial suggestion that the researchers did not conduct "good" science, when the implication was actually directed at me. That's actually a funny coincidence given the topic. You intended one thing, but I perceived another. I'd argue that in parenting the child's perception is the most important factor in determining the quality of the relationship. If a child has a harder time feeling close, then good parenting would suggest that the parent do something different.

So true. It skews data or at

So true. It skews data or at the very least, conclusions.

As a reader who falls into

As a reader who falls into the category of having strict/negative relations with a parents and knowing that it has impacted how they relate to others (and is feeling a bit blue after reading your article) it would have been greatly appreciated to have more helpful information in how to address how to make the changes rather than just the vague "may just require some sort of therapy or at least a willful intention to change yourself (e.g. with parenting)".

Same. Commenting to get a

Same. Commenting to get a response as well.

RE: As a reader who falls into

I appreciate you asking for more info. I didn't have enough space to explain everything in one blog post. The reason I included the parenting link ( ) is that their model in parenting group therapy address the issues that many people have with their own parents. It simply relates to being a parent yourself instead of your own romantic relationships, but they both rely on the oxytocin system.

There is not much neuroscience research on changing the oxytocin system. Most oxytocin neuroscience research relies on giving oxytocin, instead of measuring how it changes. Fortunately, there is lots of psychology research into how to improve your relationships and your readiness/receptiveness to relationships. Improving your reflective capacity is probably the first step. Reflective capacity is a function of the prefrontal cortex that basically involves 2 things. 1. Recognizing that your emotions are not reality. 2. Recognizing that other people's actions are driven by thoughts and emotions that you're not privy to. I've written more about it (albeit with respect to parenting) here: .

The reason I did not offer many tips, aside from space issues, is that if you are still strongly affected by a negative relationship with your parents, then trying to solve it all on your own is probably not the best way. If it's a problem with relationships with other people, then you'll likely need to address it with other people, and therapy is the best way to do that. You can help yourself though by whenever you feel upset, stressed, angry etc by what your partner did do the following: Notice, "oh I'm feeling stressed out" and ask yourself is the problem something that your partner actually did wrong or is it just your own sensitivity to certain situations.

I'll scour the literature more for more specific suggestions and hopefully write another article.

puffs of oxytocin?

As a perinatal educator I devote a significant percent of the limited time that I have with families on the role of oxytocin in the human life cycle. The introduction of synthetic oxytocin in your blood stream (eg. via IV pitocin) does not have the same effect as human generated oxytocin. The process of the body manufacturing or generating its own oxytocin is not irrelevant. The measurable concentration of the hormone in the bloodstream can not explain the nuerotransmitter role because synthetic version does not cross the blood-brain barrier. While I am not at odds with the premise of this piece, you can't ignore the fact that synthetic oxytocin is not biologically identical.

Leah brings up some very

Leah brings up some very valid concerns here - we need to be careful about assuming the results of administering a synthetic, non bioidentical substance will accurately reflect the effects of the "real thing". Another question that came to mind while reading the study was whether the participants had been screened to make sure they all had similar amounts of freely available disposable income, as this could significantly affect the charity donation portion of the study, rendering it nothing more than a measure of economic privilege (although this question does open a new can of worms, since if the participants weren't adequately matched, we could argue that people who reported better relationships with their parents may achieve greater economic success than unhappier peers).

RE: Leah brings up some very

I'm in total agreement. The point of the article was not that people should take oxytocin supplements. Oxytocin delivered by your own brain, due to actual human interactions is much more targeted and useful. However, most studies on oxytocin utilize nasal administration of oxytocin. You gotta take the studies that are available and draw the best conclusions you can.

As for the charity study. All the participants were undergraduate students. I don't think the researchers controlled for disposable income, but all subjects were from the same population and were randomized to each group. It is unlikely that all the poor students were randomly selected to be in the oxytocin group.

The Problems with the Love Hormone

Wow that explains a lot!. My parents were not affectionate with each other or any of their children, but by reason of being the oldest I got much less than the rest of my brothers and sister. I have had two marriage, one ending in divorce the other in death. and can trufully say that I did not know how to emotionally relate to them, even I thought I am affectionally demonstrative/ they were not. . When I adopted my children I made up my mind never to raise them breaking their spirit and to be very affectionate. I have a feeling that this also a inherited trait. I raised both my children with a lot of hugs, kisses and positive affirmations and non-controling role modeling. Yet today my grown children are totally different: my son is affectionate, likes to hug and be hugged, very considerate.My daughter feels uncomfortable when hugged or kissed and is not affectionate with husband or children. Here is the caviat: she located 10 years ago her birth family and sibblings. Both birth parents are undemonstrative and uncomfortabble giving and accepting affection expresions. For myself I have realized that all the men I have been involved in/out of marriage were or are undemonstrative. I have a 10 year relationship with a man whose emotional/affective relativeness is the worst I have ever encountered triggering in me the usual give until it hurts mode of relating to men. What do you think?

The problems with the Love Hormone

Has been a couple of months since I wrote last. I Have develfoped a further understanding of my man. I see there are many similarities between us. He developed Parkinson 6 years ago,,,,Funny that one the psychological symptoms of this disease is inability to emote.Yet this is one of his difficulties throughtout his life. His family of origing was extremely disfunctional, father killed himnself when he was 9 years of age. He was the youngest of 6 children and his mother, which he loved very much gave him benign indifference, never fullfilling his love needs as a child. His older brothers, abused him emotionally and physically. He says that they,plus is ex wife taught him that loving anyone brought him more pain than happiness. I wonder if given his family circumstances, his decision to avoid loving, resulted in a neurological disease such as Parkinson, where ability to emote feelings is gradually taken away. As Epigenics seems to indicate, what we thing of ourselves, if strong enough and held long enough results in DNA changes that manifestain in body or phsychological illneseses or symptoms in accord with our unconcious thoughts My man friend now is aware of this and is able to recognize this in himself, and curious enough he is able to feel something aking to admiration for people that exhibit good spiritual qualities acccording to his religious faith..That seems to be the closest to feeling love. What do yo think?

cycle of abuse

This suggests to me that there may well be some deeper causes to cycles of abuse than simply a psychological reaction. Fascinating.

RE: cycle of abuse

Yes, that's definitely the case.

Childhood Traum/Neglect = Permanent Brain Damage

Oxy receptors and system may change but not the permanent PTSD of a traumatic childhood - esp for women.

Look up the ACES study for more context.

now my love chemical has kicked in then what?

I am 69 years young and for the first time in 29 years I never knew what a chemical called oxytocin was. I accidently fell in love about 3 months ago but how do I de activate this chemical addition?
Miss Unequally yoked together

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Alex Korb, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral researcher at UCLA and scientific consultant for BrainSonix Inc. 


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