Can Oxytocin Ease Shyness?

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Can Oxytocin Ease Shyness?

Post  Xavier on Wed Jul 23, 2008 4:22 pm

Can Oxytocin Ease Shyness?
By M.J. Stephey

For centuries artists have tried to capture the essence of love, and now scientists may have found it in the brain.

Known as oxytocin (not to be confused with the painkiller OxyContin), the naturally occurring hormone is best known for controlling contractions during labor, but it also plays a key role in other fundamental human urges including the desire to connect with others. "Somehow, the peptide increases trust, or alters the way individuals see each other," says Tom Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health.
Without oxytocin people would be far less inclined to seek social interaction, let alone fall in love and mate for life (or, as scientists call it, "pair bond"). The brain releases gobs of it during orgasm, mothers are awash in it during breastfeeding and, in clinical trials, a spritz of oxytocin has been shown to reduce anxiety, increase feelings of generosity and even ease the symptoms of shyness. Conversely, researchers are beginning to discover that low levels of the hormone or the body's faulty response to it may contribute to severe social dysfunctions like depression and autism.
Most previous research on oxytocin has focused on animals. (Prairie voles are famous for their oxytocin-inspired behavior: they're fiercely monogamous lovers and caring parents.) But more recently, scientists have begun to determine how oxytocin functions in the human brain or, more specifically, how it malfunctions. Studies have shown that people with autism tend to have low levels of oxytocin, as well as hyperactivity in the amygdala, where most oxytocin receptors are located. The amygdala is also where memories are formed, and where our brains process and assign emotional meaning to sensory information that is, where we turn perception (seeing someone smile) into "neuroception" (understanding the feeling of happiness that the smile reflects), says Stephen Porges, a psychologist at the University of Illinois in Chicago. So, misfirings in the amygdala, in tandem with low oxytocin, may help explain why people with autism have trouble distinguishing between happy expressions and angry ones, making social interaction difficult and unpleasant.

Early studies of oxytocin's role in social interaction have yielded some interesting results. In a small 2006 experiment, Dr. Eric Hollander of New York's Mount Sinai School of Medicine administered synthetic oxytocin and a placebo intravenously to 15 autistic adult patients; afterward, those who received oxytocin were better able to decipher emotions in tone of voice. Moreover, these improvements in social awareness lasted for nearly two weeks. (In 2006, Hollander filed a patent for the use of oxytocin to treat symptoms of autism spectrum disorders; the request is still pending). Investigators at Mount Sinai have also found that oxytocin nasal sprays enhance autistic patients' ability to interpret facial expressions.
The effects of oxytocin nasal spray are not limited to those with autism either. In studies by Paul Zak, director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies in Claremont, Calif., small doses of inhaled oxytocin spray reduced anxiety and wariness of strangers in healthy volunteers; in one trial, the hormone made people feel more generous and trusting with their money.
For the oxytocin-deficient among us, the hormone is commercially available on the Internet new mothers sometimes use it to trigger the release of breast milk (and nearly half of all women who give birth in the U.S. intravenously receive Pitocin, a commercial version of oxytocin, to induce labor). But some entrepreneurs are already touting oxytocin as a shyness cure. One website hawks a "trust elixir," an oxytocin-laced perfume that its manufacturers say will make its wearers seem more trustworthy to others and vice versa.
There's no telling whether it works products like these aren't classified as drugs, so they aren't evaluated by the FDA but, at least in theory, it ought to make love, lust or trust bloom a little faster. That's not unlike the drug ecstasy, which triggers the release of serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin in the brain and heightens users' feelings of trust and intimacy, even among complete strangers. Concerns that oxytocin might be similarly abused as a recreational drug seem unfounded, however, given that the hormone doesn't produce a high, says zoologist Sue Carter of the University of Illinois at Chicago, who pioneered oxytocin research in voles.
Oxytocin may be something of a wonder compound, spurring childbirth and creating love, but it's not exactly a performance enhancer and certainly not a cure-all not for shyness or autism, or any other social dysfunction. "The nervous system is not just oxytocin. There are many other hormones that might be just as important as oxytocin that haven't been identified yet," Carter says. "A piece of social support is oxytocin. That doesn't mean that oxytocin alone equals social support."

But if a shot of oxytocin is what you want, there are other, more natural ways to boost the hormone's production. Massage, petting a dog, even eating food with a friend can trigger the chemical's release, says Zak. So can sensorimotor, or "mind-body," therapies, like breathing exercises and yoga, which help people cope with their emotions by controlling their body's physical reaction to stress and fear. "We should look at other ways to juice the system without having to put two spoons of liquid up your nose every four hours," Zak says.
Preliminary findings may be intriguing, but most oxytocin researchers remain skeptical about its widespread clinical use and the notion of "paradise engineering." "If you feel safe and allow yourself to feel safe, you can learn, you can cooperate with others, you can build societies," says Carter. "Now does that mean we should run around and spray everyone with oxytocin? I don't think so."

Find this article at:
http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1820828,00.html
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Xavier

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Review: Can Oxytocin Ease Shyness?

Post  Xavier on Wed Jul 23, 2008 6:16 pm

This research has provided an interesting insight into how our body require important chemicals such as oxytocin to establish social circles and to interact with one another. Some problems such as social isolation,autism and even depression can now be explained through the new breakthrough in the understanding of oxytocin.

The primary cause of autism as explained through the seemingly low levels of oxytocin,lowers the ability of an individual to differentiate feelings and remember information.This will lower the ability of an individual to fit into the greater community and interact with peers. However,is there a need for oxytocin to be made available for the welfare of the above groups of people? The provision of this hormone depends on its uses and effects on individuals,be it negative or positive.

One negative aspect of this being commercialized is that the substance may be abused just like how Subutex is abused by drug offenders. Although oxytocin does not give users a 'high' feeling,the availability of the "cure" to shyness may become a necessity, and thus not allowing the individual to learn the social skills that everyone does. This would create an artificially induced sense of self-esteem which does not account to reality.

In retrospect, research on a study of 15 autistic adults with the use of the oxytocin "cure" showed a greater ability to differentiate emotions through a person's voice.In this case,there is little evidence to show that this new "cure" to shyness may work,but if effects such as this can be derived, then the autistic,the depressed and the social deserters should given a choice to accept this new form of treatment.

In everything we do,limits are imposed to keep us on the right track, the providers of this "oxytocin" cure should also weigh their options,consider priorities and then decide how much to provide and for whom to provide. If careful consideration is not taken,then there could be another problem looming.
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Interesting article :)

Post  ~*~ Amirah ~*~ on Fri Jul 25, 2008 9:09 pm

As mentioned in the article, this medical breakthrough has indeed improved the conditions of autistic patients in such a way that after 'inhaling' the hormone, they would be able to connect to feelings and emotions to a larger extent, if not for a longer period of time. This achievement in itself has pushed scientific advancements to a new level. I forsee that in times to come, this discovery on oxytoxin will be used extensively in treating patients with depression and anxiety. This way, we can control the number of people suffering from these disorders. I am also amazed by the things that oxytoxin can do such as inducing labour and increasing the production of breast-milk.

However, I feel that the use of oxytoxin as a means to induce people's interest is somewhat 'wrong'. Sure, its not a crime but somehow in my point of view, by creating this false 'attraction' by others onto you is something that should not be done as, it goes against natural the will of the other party. Yes, oxytoxin drives people to the feeling of love, lust and trust but does that mean that all these elements will be gone and will wither once the 'supply' of oxytoxin is gone? If the answer to this is a yes, isn't that by using oxytoxin, we are creating false emotions onto people we actually 'love' and 'trust'? Does that equate to love even? It's as if we are putting the 'life-span' of love, trust and lust onto the supply of oxytoxin.

Looking into the limitations on the usage of this hormone, will the poor especially in the third-world countries ever get to feel the benefits of it? It seems that most of the medical breakthroughs do not gain access to countries where they are being needed the most. In countries like Africa, most of the people are deprived from the basic components of food such as proteins and carbohydrates and as such, many of them suffer from malnutrition. Have you ever think about what may change if these breakthroughs actually 'get' through to these countries? I forsee that the access of these people to oxytoxin (if this is possible, even) will help to decrease the number of children growing up suffering from malnutrition as a result of the inability of their moms to produce enough breastmilk for the children to survive on as infants. This in turn, may increase the productivity of the country with more healthy people around.

As such, i feel that the developed countries should put in extra effort not only to discover more things which may benefit the society but in taking the initiative to share their 'discoveries' to people who may need it more than them as mentioned earlier.

With that, I rest my case.
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Re: Can Oxytocin Ease Shyness?

Post  Rain on Sat Jul 26, 2008 5:44 pm

I think that such a medical discovery is indeed beneficial to some extent. With the knowledge of a certain hormone(oxytocin) that is directly linked to defects such as autism, we are one step closer to finding the solutions. Then, we could improve and build a healthier population to reduce sufferings. Furthermore, people with low levels of such hormones now can seek help to ease their difficulty in social interactions.

However, the findings may have its side effects. Some people now may have the mentality of "buying emotions". Just by spraying ocytocin nasal spray, it can trigger users' feelings of love,lust and trust which feelings as such should be nurtured and not chemically induced. Specifically, more rape cases could happen if oxytocin is abused. Oxytocin heightens the feeling of lust and it could be just a moment of harshness induced by the nasal spray. More consumers could also be cheated of their money to buy products because their levels of trust were increased by oxytocin spray. Hence, sales people could now better sell their products. Therefore, it is important that oxytocin uses should be regulated in case of abuse.

Inhaled oxytocin spray is a perfect example of how technology advancements brings us convenience. Just imagine a hormone can be actually "extracted" to be made into a nasal spray. Furthermore, it is so widespread that one can easily purchase it on the Internet. We have already entered an era of a seemingly seamless network.

All in all, while every medical discovery is made has its benefits, it might also pose problems of different aspects such as social problems. More careful findings should be made and we should keep continuing to research and fine-tune the discoveries.

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Re: Can Oxytocin Ease Shyness?

Post  izzy on Sun Jul 27, 2008 2:31 pm

At first, I have no idea that by increasing our hormone(oxytocin) , we are able to develop this feeling of trust, lust and love. However, after reading the article and knowing that various researchers from prestigious universities, such as Center for Neuroeconomics Studies in Claremont, California, New York's Mount Sinai School of Medicine and University of Illinois in Chicago, carried out their discoveries on oxytocin, I was very much amazed by its usage.

Commercializing inhaled oxytocin spray may be for the better or the worse, depending on the situation of the consumers. As the hormone spray is available online, people anywhere who gain the access to Internet are able to buy the so-callled 'cure' easily. Nevertheless, I believed that the inhaled oxytocin spray should only be deserved and used by those who sufferred from anxiety, depression and have 'weak' nervous system, meaning those who faced with difficulties in responding to their feelings. Why? The main reason is, most of us lead lives normally and have nervous system that function properly. It is not a necessity to increase our hormone just by inhaling oxtocin as there are many other means and activities that are able to do the same thing. As long as we are happy, the oxytocin is always available in our hormones. Even by inhaling oxytocin, it does not guarantee that we will be happy, though it may help to 'reduce anxiety, increase feelings of generosity and even ease the symptoms of shyness'. Furthermore, for the case of entrepreneurs who used oxytocin to treat their shyness, they can actually get rid of their shyness if they had calmed down. The commercial on one website which hawked 'a "trust elixir," an oxytocin-laced perfume that its manufacturers say will make its wearers seem more trustworthy to others and vice versa' will only imply attraction for the consumers to buy the products and may not benefit the consumers, eventually.

Therefore, it should be known that we must never misuse any products. The inhaled oxytocin spray , just like drugs, may soon become an addiction to people who rely on it so much , even though they may not suffer from depression or autism. On another note, they are wasting money just to buy products which have little effects on them. The products will have greater effects on those who have depression or autism and that is why, they should be the ones who deserve to buy them. Hence, the commercializing of the inhaled oxytoxin spray, should only be made available for people suffering from depression, autism or symptoms which cause problems to their emotions.

As for the issue whether oxytoxin can ease shyness, it relies on the individual himself. Only the individual knows the best for himself. After all, oxytoxin is not the only hormone/way which can ease shyness. If the individual overcome their shyness by being over-confident and not afraid about the situation they are in, it is very likely that they do not have to rely on oxytoxin. However, if the indvidual is an introvert and do not have the guts to talk to someone, oxytocin will be something useful to him.

Peace out.
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Re: Can Oxytocin Ease Shyness?

Post  tzuhui on Sun Jul 27, 2008 8:44 pm

Oxytocin is an interesting discovery. It seems to work like any other drug, replenishing nutrients we lack, like vitamins or inducing our bodies to produce hormones that we lack, like chocolates, producing endorphines to get that "feel good" feeling. Another drug similar to Oxytocin's effects is nicotine. In small doses, it helps to relief pain but is large amounts, we can permanently ruin our lives, addicted to its effects.
Nicotine, Oxytocin and chocolate are all just drugs. They are not living, merely existing, subjected to our usage and consumption. Thus, we are the ones with free will, we are the ones to decide if tshould he drugs exist as medicine or poison, in a way, we are the "gods" of these drugs.
Most of the time, humans are short-sighted. They easily get high on drugs, living for the moment, unconcerned with what our actions might do to us in the future or how it may affect others. Sometimes, we know of the consequences of our actions but for personal gains, we disregard the safety of others and misuse drugs like Oxytocin. Thus, should Oxytocin be available to the general public, the government must work together with health institutions to control profit-driven firms from going overboard with trying to sell the drug and keep the public in line by ensuring that they are fully aware of what they are getting themselves into when they consume the drug. In all, humans must take responsibility for their actions and be exceptionally careful when they meddle in technology they have not fully grapse and understand yet.
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