Oxytocin is being tested as a treatment for autism and social phobia, and it's under consideration for treating a variety of other disorders.
What about a mother who doesn't love her baby enough?
Despite the myth of the absoluteness of mother love, many new mothers don't feel attached to or excited about their newborns. There are myriad reasons for this, from the mother's inability to attach to anyone -- because of her own abuse or neglect as a child -- to a problematic or stressed pregnancy to that poorly understood neurochemical state known as post-partum depression.
Craig Kinsley, Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Richmond's Department of Psychology, has shown, in research with Kelly Lambert, how motherhood remodels the brains of rats. It increases the number of oxytocin receptors, increases the sensitivity of the receptors and also improves their memory.
Kinsley has begun to apply this research to human mothers. At the International Congress on Women's Mental Health, he suggested that this research could lead to interventions aimed at helping new moms form a secure bond.
According to the article in News in Science,
It may be possible, he says, with this template to then identify potential 'bad' mothers by examining how their brains behave when the mother is first interacting with the baby.
Kinsley says if females with a deficit of a critical neurochemical, such as oxytocin, can be identified, then "when they are first interacting with the baby you can give them a boost of oxytocin at a critical time".
The Women's Bioethics Blog predicted this back in August 2007. See my post, Will Bad Mothering Become the Latest Disorder?
Kinsley's collaborator, Kelly Lambert, has found that fatherhood creates changes in the brains of male deer mice, as well. Maybe they could also give oxytocin to deadbeat dads.