What does the 'love hormone' do? It's complicated
on 24 June 2020
Love is a many splendored thing

Love is a many splendored thing, well, that's the way they sold it in the 1955 movie of the same name. A love story between an American journalist (William Holden) and a Eurasian Dr (Han Suyin). Things have obviously changed a lot since then and the need to connect with the feeling side of life offers the potential for an effective solution . . . 

The misunderstanding of our most empowering emotion!

It is astonishing how pervasive the emotion we call love is in our everyday lives. What is even more astonishing is the amount of formal education we receive on it . . . ? I have yet to have a single client who received any education on the emotion of love! While this research is about the chemical correlates of emotion and while they mention oxytocin, vasopressin, dopamine, serotonin and noradrenaline also play a part too! This rich rewarding experience of love doesn't only exist in the presence of empowering experiences (and substances), it also is present in the absence of fear/anxiety. In fact, it can only be experienced in the absence of fear/anxiety!

So how do we learn about love? Mostly it is in the rhetorical sense. Mummy and daddy put little Billy on the kitchen counter and say, "We love you, Billy." Naturally, little Billy says, "I love you too mummy and daddy!" But what does little Billy know of love, best guess...? Seemingly as little as his parents! Love is an emotion and emotions are feelings and that is really important to know because we are sentient beings. However, from a well-being perspective, the feeling we need to experience the most is that of calmness, peace and tranquillity. That is why meditation, diaphragmatic breathing, prayer and, of course, a day at the beach, are so empowering. In those moments we are steeped in the parasympathetic nervous system response, aka the relaxation response. It is while we are in this position that cells/neurons are at their most healthy and most productive. The love we experience in romantic or familial situations has more to do with procreation and survival than the promotion of wellbeing. The fact that many families are dysfunctional is a testament to that! Drugs and alcohol are merely derivative forms of getting the same feelings but they require a lot of energy to maintain them and, therefore, are unsustainable. However, to the degree that the brain likes the feelings, is the same degree to which it will motivate you to repeat the behaviour, aka an addiction!

So, for most of my clients, the first real experience of a strong emotional experience they could call love comes in the form of a romantic liaison. It is so strong it has broken families apart if they try to interfere. The result is when your parent(s) object to your choice of partner; how dare they! That said, parents are often a little more clued up than you imagine when it comes to their opinion of your choices! Often we are more in love with the way a person makes us feel than we are in love with the person! Evidence to support this becomes available over time. If he or she was the best thing since sliced bread when you met but has degraded to rotten cheese 6 months later. Chances are you were more in love with your own experience of feeling than you were with the person!

Part of what I do in my practice is to reorient and, somewhat, educate clients about the way our brain processes emotions. Mostly this is in the context of negative emotion, fear/anxiety, to start with. This is simply because the vast majority of my clients are swimming in the pool of negative emotion when I first meet them. You first have to help them out of that pool of negativity before you can transition them into the ocean of tranquillity. This is not in the sense of creating an unrealistic world full of roses and beautiful scents, life is tough, you are going to experience difficulties and challenges! It's just that solutions to problems will be better and more productive out of a brain that has sufficient daily experience of being in these restive states. When we are in these states, be it before or after a challenging moment, we will usually end up with better outcomes. It is very difficult, if not impossible (without training), to access this state in the midst of a full-blown fight or flight experience. So, being in that state of mind before can help you to reduce the intensity and/or duration of a stressful situation. And after, well, that's the debrief opportunity, an, I'll do better next time, moment!

Hypnotherapy is not, or at least shouldn't be, just about hypnosis and therapeutic intervention, it should be about taking a holistic approach to life. In order to function to our utmost potential, we need to focus on "all of the basics," i.e. breathing, hydration, food, sleep, exercise, in all its forms and then hypnosis will work much more effectively. It is still good if you ignore the basics, obviously not too much, and mostly this is the place many clients are already in. Very few clients breathe properly, 99% do not breathe properly (diaphragmatically), many are somewhat dehydrated and many have poor diets. You will survive but for some, longevity could be impaired. But the quality of one's life is not expressed in the number of years they live, It's what they achieve in those years that really counts and all of this is an intrinsic part of the way I deliver my therapy! So, if you want to live a good life, why not make an appointment for a free consultation? See below for the link to a new future!

Hypnotherapy stands out as one of the most effective strategic life management methods there is, especially in its ability to promote clear thinking and good states of mental wellness. The behaviours that make life challenging are often a result of too much stress, too little or poor quality sleep and too little mental and emotional clarity! So, to get or take back control of your mind and your life, try hypnotherapy. It makes perfect sense to use a methodology that addresses the subconscious brain's role in perpetuating negative, vague and ambiguous states of mind. Hypnosis helps us to create calm relaxing states of mind that make life work better! So, I have a question for you, do you want to address any concerns you have in this direction? If so, and you want to discover how to make your life feel better, then why not make an appointment for a Free Consultation? Hypnosis gives you the ability to have a good life!

My objective is to help people understand how and why we become illogically trapped in emotional experiences. Especially ones that may actually be happening for reasons, we may never have imagined! If you want to know more about Hypnotherapy, why not make an appointment for a Free Consultation?

For more information on the Free Consultation - Go Here Or, to book your Free Consultation today, you can do so here

The Research:

Much of what we know about the actions of neuromodulators like oxytocin comes from behavioural studies of lab animals in standard lab conditions. These conditions are strictly controlled and artificial, in part so that researchers can limit the number of variables affecting behaviour. A number of recent studies suggest that the actions of a mouse in a semi-natural environment can teach us much more about natural behaviour, and maybe apply those findings to humans.

During the pandemic lockdown, as couples have been forced to spend days and weeks in one another's company, some have found their love renewed while others are on their way to divorce court. Oxytocin, a peptide produced in the brain, is complicated in that way: a neuromodulator, it may bring hearts together or it can help induce aggression. That conclusion arises from unique research led by Weizmann Institute of Science researchers in which mice living in semi-natural conditions had their oxytocin producing brain cells manipulated in a highly precise manner. The findings, which were published in Neuron, could shed new light on efforts to use oxytocin to treat a variety of psychiatric conditions, from social anxiety and autism to schizophrenia.

Much of what we know about the actions of neuromodulators like oxytocin comes from behavioural studies of lab animals in standard lab conditions. These conditions are strictly controlled and artificial, in part so that researchers can limit the number of variables affecting behaviour. But a number of recent studies suggest that the actions of a mouse in a semi-natural environment can teach us much more about natural behaviour, especially when we mean to apply those findings to humans.

Prof. Alon Chen's lab group in the Institute's Neurobiology Department have created an experimental setup that enables them to observe mice in something approaching their natural living conditions -- an environment enriched with stimuli they can explore -- and their activity is monitored day and night with cameras and analyzed computationally. The present study, which has been ongoing for the past eight years, was led by research students Sergey Anpilov and Noa Eren, and Staff Scientist Dr Yair Shemesh in Prof. Chen's lab group. The innovation in this experiment, however, was to incorporate optogenetics -- a method that enables researchers to turn specific neurons in the brain on or off using light. To create an optogenetic setup that would enable the team to study mice that were behaving naturally, the group developed a compact, lightweight, wireless device with which the scientists could activate nerve cells by remote control. With the help of optogenetics expert Prof. Ofer Yizhar of the same department, the group introduced a protein previously developed by Yizhar into the oxytocin-producing brain cells in the mice. When light from the wireless device touched those neurons, they became more sensitized to input from the other brain cells in their network.

"Our first goal," says Anpilov, "was to reach that 'sweet spot' of experimental setups in which we track behaviour in a natural environment, without relinquishing the ability to ask pointed scientific questions about brain functions." Shemesh adds that "the classical experimental setup is not only lacking in stimuli, but the measurements also tend to span mere minutes, while we had the capacity to track social dynamics in a group over the course of days."

Delving into the role of oxytocin was sort of a test drive for the experimental system. It had been believed that this hormone mediates pro-social behaviour. But findings have been conflicting, and some have proposed another hypothesis, termed "social salience" stating that oxytocin might be involved in amplifying the perception of diverse social cues, which could then result in pro-social or antagonistic behaviours, depending on such factors as an individual character and their environment.

To test the social salience hypothesis, the team used mice in which they could gently activate the oxytocin-producing cells in the hypothalamus, placing them first in the enriched, semi-natural lab environments. To compare, they repeated the experiment with mice placed in the standard, sterile lab setups.

In the semi-natural environment, the mice at first displayed a heightened interest in one another, but this was soon accompanied by a rise in aggressive behaviour. In contrast, increasing oxytocin production in the mice in classical lab conditions resulted in reduced aggression. "In an all-male, natural social setting, we would expect to see belligerent behaviour as they compete for territory or food," says Anpilov. "That is, the social conditions are conducive to competition and aggression. In the standard lab setup, a different social situation leads to a different effect for the oxytocin."

If the "love hormone" is more likely a "social hormone," what does that mean for its pharmaceutical applications? "Oxytocin is involved, as previous experiments have shown, in such social behaviours as making eye contact or feelings of closeness," says Eren, "but our work shows it does not improve sociability across the board. Its effects depend on both context and personality." This implies that if oxytocin is to be used therapeutically, a much more nuanced view is needed in research: "If we want to understand the complexities of behaviour, we need to study behaviour in a complex environment. Only then can we begin to translate our findings to human behaviour," she says.

Story Source:
Materials provided by Weizmann Institute of Science. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:
1. Sergey Anpilov, Yair Shemesh, Noa Eren, Hala Harony-Nicolas, Asaf Benjamin, Julien Dine, Vinícius E.M. Oliveira, Oren Forkosh, Stoyo Karamihalev, Rosa-Eva Hüttl, Noa Feldman, Ryan Berger, Avi Dagan, Gal Chen, Inga D. Neumann, Shlomo Wagner, Ofer Yizhar, Alon Chen. Wireless Optogenetic Stimulation of Oxytocin Neurons in a Semi-natural Setup Dynamically Elevates Both Pro-social and Agonistic Behaviors. Neuron, 2020; DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2020.05.028

Cite This Page:
Weizmann Institute of Science. "What does the 'love hormone' do? It's complicated: A study of mice in a semi-natural setting shows how the hormone oxytocin can amplify aggression as well as friendliness." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 June 2020. <>.