But there is one potent formula that our own body manufactures. Called oxytocin, it exists only in mammals. It is both a neurotransmitter, meaning it communicates with the brain and nervous system and a hormone. It communicates with organs systems too.
Scientists have dubbed oxytocin the "cuddle hormone" for its ability to promotes strong bonds between mother and infant and between adult lovers.
It is also called the "molecule of monogamy". It is most accurately described as the master chemical of social connection. Both sexes have oxytocin in their brain, but oxytocin levels are generally higher in females.
We have long known that ocytocin is released during breastfeeding and orgasm, however we have now discovered that our brain givers us a little dose of the cuddle hormone whenever we are physically near to those we love. In fact, thinking of our loved one will trigger a rush of this hormone!
This chemical packs a punch! A whiff of oxytocin increases our tendency to trust and engage with others in a less defensive, more empathic way. Oxytocin turns off our threat detector, the amygdala, as well as the HPA axis, the "get up and challenge" part of our brain. The effect is to reduce fear and anxiety and lower production of stress hormones. Oxytocin turns on the calming, "relax, all if fine," parasympathic nervous system.
That said, the social effects of oxytocin are still mind-boggling. When dosed with oxytocin, we fixate more on others and gaze longer into their eyes. Scientists suggest that this may be why oxytocin helps us better read others' facial expressions do correctly tune in to their intentions.
The accurate interpretation of nonverbal signals in our partner allows us to tune in and to and effectively coordinate moves without our partner to create a harmonious dance.
Positive romantic love expands our world; it makes us more confident, flexible and open.
Love Sense _ Sue Johnson