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OXYTOCIN: The Chemical Bonds of Love by Andrea E. Janda

OXYTOCIN: The Chemical Bonds of Love by Andrea E. Janda

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Published by Andrea E. Janda
This is a brief research paper I composed for a course called "Science of Women's Bodies" based off the text "Woman: An Intimate Geography" by Natalie Angier and taken at Portland State University. The paper includes a survey of 62 respondents and a brief discussion with simplified statistical analysis.
This is a brief research paper I composed for a course called "Science of Women's Bodies" based off the text "Woman: An Intimate Geography" by Natalie Angier and taken at Portland State University. The paper includes a survey of 62 respondents and a brief discussion with simplified statistical analysis.

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Published by: Andrea E. Janda on Jun 10, 2010
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Running Head: OXYTOCIN: THE CHEMICAL BONDS OF LOVE
Oxytocin
The Chemical Bonds of Love
Andrea E. JandaPortland State UniversitySCI‐365U‐001SCIENCE OF WOMENS BODIES
 Janice
 
Montgomery 
 Spring 2010June 3, 2010
 
2
 
OXYTOCIN: THE CHEMICAL BONDS OF LOVE
Oxytocin Overview
 Oxytocin (Oxt), also known as alpha-hypophamine (
α
 –hypophamine), is a nonapeptidehormone, (composed of nine amino acids) with a chemical formula represented as
C
43
H
66
N
12
O
12
S
2
. It is created and secreted by the hypothalamus and travels down the nervefibers to the posterior lobe of the pituitary gland where it is released into the circulatory system(Uvnäs
Moberg, 2003).
Oxytocin acts both as a hormone through the bloodstream from nerveendings to target organs and as a neurotransmitter, a signaling substance in the nervous systemreaching cell receptors and producing specific, localized effects (Du Vigneaud et al, 1953; UvnäsMoberg, 2003, Angier, 2009
).
Traveling along the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA or HTPA axis), oxytocin’s effects are varied including its ability to modulate reactions to stress andanxiety, to regulate mood, emotion, digestion, and immune function, and to facilitate sexualresponse, orgasm, pair-bonding, trust, and maternal behaviors as well as social interaction andfunction (Bales, Pfeifer, & Carter, 2004; Carter, Lederhendler, & Kirkpatrick, 1999; Fisher,2004; Kuchinas, 2009; Leonie, 2008; Uvnäs Moberg, 2003; Pedersen, 2004; Young & Zuoxin,2004).Oxytocin was first discovered by
Sir Henry Dale, an English scientist in 1909 who noted its presence within the pituitary gland. Dale
described its uterine-contracting properties and because itsped up the birthing process, he named it oxytocin from the Greek words for “quick” and “birth”(Uvnäs Moberg, 2003, p. 3) Oxytocin was also one of the very first hormones to have itschemical construction mapped within the mid-twentieth century by Vincent du Vigneaud,
 
whosubsequently received the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1955 (Du Vigneaud et al, 1953). Sincethen, oxytocin has grown up—once thought to be solely associated with the femininereproductive domain of childbirth (uterine contractions) and breast feeding (milk letdown),
 
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OXYTOCIN: THE CHEMICAL BONDS OF LOVE
oxytocin’s functional roles are being explored and redefined in the human arenas of love, sex,trust, and socialization.
“Fight or Flight” vs. “Calm and Connection”
Descriptively, oxytocin’s effect on the body runs the gamut between physiological statesand psychological processes. Indeed, the mind body-connection and the age-old “
ght or 
ight”response are related to the oxytocin response. Uvnäs Moberg proposes the “calm andconnection” system which she describes as the “other end of the seesaw” or the “opposite pole”to the fight or flight reaction, associating it with trust and curiosity instead of fear, and withfriendliness instead of anger (Uvnäs Moberg, 2003, introduction, p. x). Juxtaposing the calm andconnection system with the stress system features oxytocin as the mirror opposite to adrenaline, astress hormone which acts in the short term and the antidote to cortisol, a stress hormone that haslong term effects (Grippo et al., 2007). After the rush of the stress response, oxytocin is partlyresponsible for acting as a thermostat, dialing the body’s temperature, balancing the
uids in the body, stimulating cell division and wound healing and regulating the levels of stress hormones,namely cortisol. (Uvnäs Moberg, 2003; Kuchinas, 2009).Oxytocin is closely related to another peptide hormone, the blood-pressure-raisingvasopressin (Kuchinas, 2009). In fact vasopressin differs only slightly from oxytocin by twomere amino acids. Despite being so similar, in some ways, there’s still a bit of sexualizedhormonal action, reaction and association that oxytocin doesn’t escape in terms of evolutionaryadaptations. In women, Kuchinas (2009) discusses how oxytocin is “crucial for maternal behavior” as well as forming the bonds between lovers and parent to child (p.17). Oxytocinfunctions as an anxiolytic and allows for relaxation, growth and healing. In men, however,Kuchinas (2009) flags the structurally similar vasopressin as being “central to male bonding,”inspiring the paternal instinct, and acting as a motivator in men’s desire to defend the family (p.

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