“Love hormone” Oxytocin may also enhance spiritual beliefs in men - Medical News


Saturday, January 27, 2018

“Love hormone” Oxytocin may also enhance spiritual beliefs in men


Popularly known as the “love hormone,” oxytocin may also intensify spiritual beliefs, according to a research by Duke University in the United States.

Lead author Patty Van Cappellen, associate director of the Interdisciplinary and Behavioral Research Center at Duke and colleagues discovered that men who received oxytocin nasal spray reported a greater sense of spirituality than those who did not receive the hormone.

Furthermore, positive emotions during meditation were reported by men who received the hormone.

Oxytocin – a hormone and chemical messenger produced by hypothalamus in the brain – is known for playing a key role in childbirth and breast-feeding. It is also known for its role in maternal bonding, and based on evidence that it is crucial for social bonding, trust, empathy, and sexual pleasure, it is often dubbed the “love hormone.”

The latest findings suggest improved spirituality could be another effect of the hormone on human psychology.

For their study, Van Cappellen and the team selected 83 middle-aged men and randomly assigned them to receive either oxytocin nasal spray or a placebo.

Immediately after and one week, subjects were required to complete a questionnaire about their spiritual beliefs.

A guided meditation exercise was also provided to them and was asked what emotions they felt during the exercise.

Researchers found that compared with men who received the placebo, the oxytocin group was more likely to mention spirituality as being very important to their lives and their life had meaning and purpose, regardless of whether or not they were part of an organized religion.

Additionally, the more likely feelings among the same group was that they were more interconnected with other people and living things, compared with the placebo group.

Furthermore, the team discovered that men who received oxytocin reported feeling positive emotions such as hope, gratitude, awe, love, inspiration, and serenity during guided meditation.

A gene variant – CD38 – known to regulate the release of oxytocin in the hypothalamus – was found in men who had the strongest link between oxytocin and enhanced spirituality, researchers discovered upon analyzing the genotypes of all participants.

The team notes that further investigation will prove whether oxytocin produces the same effect in women, but they say their findings provide the first evidence that oxytocin may act as a catalyst in our spiritual beliefs.

Van Cappellen says, they wanted to understand biological factors that may improve spirituality and meditation, because in past studies, these two spiritual experiences had been associated with health and well-being. Oxytocin seems to be partly responsible for supporting our body with spiritual beliefs.

Spirituality, he says is affected by many factors. But, the “love hormone” does appear to influence how we view the world, at the same time and what we believe.

The findings were published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

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