'Cuddle hormone' which makes mothers kinder could help treat autismMothers with higher oxytocin levels are more attentive
Monkeys more trusting after hormone shot'Breaks down normal social barriers', say scientists
Mothers with higher levels of oxytocin were more affectionate
A natural chemical known as the 'cuddle hormone' makes people kinder and could help millions suffering from psychiatric disorders such as autism, say scientists.
Researchers found that women with higher levels of oxytocin – a hormone produced in the brain – were more affectionate towards their babies.
Meanwhile another study found participants who were given doses of oxytocin, offered 80 per cent more money to strangers than those given a placebo.
It is now hoped that the discovery will help develop effective treatment for patients suffering from a range of psychiatric disorders
that affect social interaction, including autism and schizophrenia.
Scientists at Bar-Ilan University in
Israel measured the natural levels of oxytocin throughout the pregnancy, of 62 women.
The researchers also observed
things such as gaze, touching, talking, and showing affection toward the
child four weeks after birth.
They found a clear link between the levels of oxytocin and the amount of attention each mother paid to her baby.
Meanwhile Paul Zak of Claremont University in California gave doses and a placebo, to participants who were
instructed to split a sum of money with a stranger.
He described the results as 'overwhelming' as participants with higher levels of oxytocin, offered 80 percent more money to strangers than those given a placebo.
The latest study found a blast of oxytocin increased the social skills and trust exhibited by rhesus monkeys – characterized by competition and aggression.
Researchers at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina administered the hormone through a child's
nebulizer, similar to a gas mask, and found it made them pay more attention to fellow primates.
Social animals: The usually-selfish rhesus macaque monkey was made more generous with squirts of fruit juice after a blast of oxytocin
Commenting on the findings lead author, Michael Platt said: 'The inhaled oxytocin enhanced pro-social choices by the monkeys, perhaps by making them pay more attention to the other individual.
'If that's true, it's really cool, because it suggests that oxytocin breaks down normal social barriers.'
However past research has suggested that the hormone could also have a negative impact, prompting participants to become angry and more aggressive.
Confirming this suspicion, Platt observed that within the first hour or two after getting the hormone, the monkeys actually became more selfish and it took a couple of hours for them to
become more social and compassionate.
Further research is now need to investigate exactly how the hormone works and whether its effects are consistent over the long term.
Platt added: 'Understanding how oxytocin works in the
brain, where the site of action is, and the long-term consequences of
treatment can't be done in humans.'