Mental health issues could be treated by ‘love hormone'

  • A hormone known as the ‘love drug', oxytocin, has shown to permanently alter the nerve pathways in the brain controlling social behaviour, and scientists believe it could help people suffering with their mental health. /images/mentalhealth.jpg

    Research has found that oxytocin can play a large and important role in manipulating how the brain processes social information. The researchers working on the project believe the results could lead to new ways of using the hormone as a drug to treat a wide range of psychological problems related to social behaviour, reports the Independent.

    "Our findings redefine oxytocin as something completely different from a 'love drug,' but more as an amplifier and suppressor of neural signals in the brain," said Robert Froemke of New York University Langone and senior investigator on the study, published in the journal Nature.

    "We found that oxytocin turns up the volume of social information processed in the brain. This suggests that it could one day be used to treat social anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, speech and language disorders, and even psychological issues stemming from child abuse," Dr Froemke said.

    The research has been carried out on mice and from the findings scientists believe that the oxytocin was controlling the volume of "social information" that was being processed and worked in a similar way to a dimmer switch can turns lights up and down.

    "This neuronal effect was long-lasting, suggesting that it might provide a key mechanism for establishing memories of socially relevant sounds in the auditory cortex," said Robert Liu, an expert on oxytocin at Emory University in Atlanta Georgia, who was not involved in the study.

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