Oxytocin, A Conspiracy Story

I came across this post a while ago and have been meaning to reblog it for some time. I would not be a good scientist or blogger if I did not present both sides of the story. The author of the reblogged post contests the multitude of functions scientists, including Paul Zak, and the media in general ascribe to oxytocin, a nonapeptide (a small protein made 0ut of nine amino acids) hormone that is secreted in the brain, that mediates breastfeeding, pair bonding, the birthing process and erections among other things.

Procrustean Neuroscience

Conspiracy theories maintain that a small group of people can not only change the world, but that they can do so in such a way that virtually everyone is unaware of their role in shaping history. These theories are criticized, in part, because they assume that too few people can get away with too much.

conspiracy-theory-alertNeuroscience commentators have adopted conspiracy-like theories about the molecule oxytocin. These theories hold that evolution has found a way to make this molecule solely responsible for complex psychological phenomena like altruism, happiness, love, morality, or trust. Can a single molecule really get away with so much?

As is often the case, the science is more complicated than its commentary. A hormone that acts as a neuropeptide in the mammalian brain (Landgraff & Neuman, 2004), oxytocin plays many roles in reproduction and other social behaviors for many species, including ours (Gimpl & Fahrenholz, 2001MacDonald &…

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