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Oxytocin Relieves Anxiety By Acting on the Brain

Every new study seems to fire the excitement about oxytocin. At the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, where Kerstin Uvnas Moberg first identified the role oxytocin plays in reducing anxiety and bonding mother and child, Predrag Petrovic found inhaling it can reduce anxiety.

Petrovic first conditioned subjects by giving them mild electric shocks as they looked at photos of faces. Then, half the subjects inhaled oxytocin and went into the fMRI scanner, which shows what parts of the brain are activated during a particular activity.

According to Science Daily's article,

Using an fMR scanner, the team also found that subjects who had developed shock-induced feelings of anxiety for certain faces exhibited, when shown these faces, higher levels of activity in two brain areas – the amygdale and the ‘fusiform face area’ – that process unpleasant and threatening faces. These activity levels then dropped when they were given oxytocin, but not when given the placebo.

Other experiments have shown decreased activity in the amygdala, thought to be the part of the brain that processes information from the senses and assigns emotional tone to it before sending it up to conscious thought.