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'Love hormone' mimics the effects of alcohol
Wednesday May 20, 2015 2:02 PM, IANS

London: Having a dose of "love hormone" oxytocin can trigger the same behavioural effects in you as of drinking, researchers from the University of Birmingham have found.

However, they warn against self-medicating with either the hormone or a swift drink to provide a little more confidence in difficult moments.

Oxytocin increases social behaviours such as altruism, generosity and empathy while making us ready to face daunting situations in life.

The new research draws on existing studies into the two compounds and details the similarities between the effects of alcohol and the "love hormone" on our actions.

Oxytocin and alcohol appear to target different receptors within the brain but cause common effects especially in social situations such as interviews, or perhaps even plucking up the courage to ask somebody on a date.

"Taking compounds such as oxytocin and alcohol can make these situations seem less daunting," said Ian Mitchell from the school of psychology at the University of Birmingham.

When administered nasally, oxytocin appears to closely mirror the well-established effects of alcohol consumption.

But alongside the health concerns that accompany frequent alcohol consumption, there are less desirable socio-cognitive effects that both alcohol and oxytocin can facilitate.

"People can become more aggressive, more boastful, envious of those they consider to be their competitors, and favour their in-group at the expense of others," the authors wrote.

The compounds can affect our sense of fear which normally acts to protect us from getting into trouble and we often hear of people taking risks that they otherwise wouldn't.

A dose of either compound can further influence how we deal with others by enhancing our perception of trustworthiness, which would further increase the danger of taking unnecessary risks.

"I do not think we will see a time when oxytocin is used socially as an alternative to alcohol," noted study co-author Steven Gillespie.

But it is a fascinating neurochemical and has a possible use in treatment of psychological and psychiatric conditions.

"Understanding exactly how it suppresses certain modes of action and alters our behaviour could provide real benefits for a lot of people," the authors concluded in a paper published in the journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews.

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