Study finds that people with low 'Oxytocin' may lead to low empathy
Study finds that people with low 'Oxytocin' may lead to low empathy

According to a new study, the hormone that is responsible for romantic attachment and parental bonding might also influence our empathy. Researchers came to this conclusion by examining patients with neurological conditions that cause a low level of oxytocin.

Oxytocin is a hormone produced in the very small part of the brain that controls many of our bodily functions, including our appetite, thirst, sleep, mood, and libido. This hormone is secreted and stored by the pituitary gland, that regulates many vital bodily functions, such as metabolism, physical growth, sexual maturation, and reproduction. Oxytocin is also known as the "love hormone"

It is released during sex and childbirth and facilitates reproduction. It is also secreted when we stare into the eyes of our loved ones, or when we hug them.

This "love hormone" has been shown to regulate social behavior as well as it increases feelings of trust and moral behavior. Oxytocin helps reduce aggression and stress levels.

New research strengthens the link between empathy and oxytocin, by examining how patients with low oxytocin levels respond to empathy tasks.

Daughters and colleagues took saliva samples from the participants both before and after the empathy tests, which consisted of the "Reading the Mind in the Eyes" task and the "Facial Expression Recognition" task.

These tests revealed lower levels of oxytocin in both CDI and HP patients, but not low enough to be statistically relevant.

However, both CDI and HP patients performed significantly worse in empathy tests than their healthy counterparts.

As Daughters points out, "this is the first study which looks at low oxytocin as a result of medical, as opposed to psychological, disorders."

"If replicated," Daughters continues, "the results from our patient groups suggest it is also important to consider medical conditions carrying a risk of low oxytocin levels."

"Patients who have undergone pituitary surgery, and in particular those who have acquired CDI as a consequence, may present with lower oxytocin levels. This could impact on their emotional behavior, and in turn, affect their psychological well-being. Perhaps we should be considering the introduction of oxytocin level checks in these cases." Katie Daughters

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