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January 2010
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March 2010

Touch Lubricates Sports -- and every other interaction

The New York Times reports on new research from Dacher Keltner of the University of California at Berkeley. Keltner, author of Born to Be Good, has done a lot of exciting work showing oxytocin's effects on positive social interactions that don't reach the level of bonding and love.

The latest study, by Michael W. Kraus, Cassy Huang, analyzed how much pro basketball players touched each other. They found that, mostly, the teams that touched each other the most were better teams. (As opposed to simply winning, which could account for more touching such as high-fives, the researchers used a scoring method that took into account other things in addition to scoring.)

Teams that made physical contact with each other more often tended to not only do better but to "get more out of" the game. (The article doesn't define this, and the study is still unpublished.)

According to Times writer Benedict Carey,

The touchiest player was Kevin Garnett, the Celtics’ star big man, followed by star forwards Chris Bosh of the Toronto Raptors and Carlos Boozer of the Utah Jazz. “Within 600 milliseconds of shooting a free throw, Garnett has reached out and touched four guys,” Dr. Keltner said.

Scientists and psychologists have long known that touch is important in families and between lovers or mates. This is another example of how that oxytocin boost that comes with warm and friendly touch can improve all kinds of human interactions.

Oxytocin for Chronic Headache?

with Jasvir Singh

Oxytocin therapy may help  patients with chronic headaches, which is 3 percent of the U.S. population. There is no current effective treatment, so this would be a real breakthrough.

Trigemina Inc.  is a start-up company that is examining new opportunities for treating pain. One of these new opportunities is intranasal oxytocin. They are conducting a study  comparing intranasal oxytocin with placebo for treating debilitating, recurrent headaches.

There's just a bit more information in their press release

With studies underway looking at oxytocin to treat social anxiety disorder, autism, schizophrenia and autism, it certainly seems that oxytocin could be a wonder drug.

Weddings, Oxytocin and Families

with Jasvir Singh

Linda Geddes and her husband-to-be Nic decided to turn the most romantic day of their life—their wedding day—into a science experiment. They wanted to see if a wedding could affect the level of oxytocin in themselves and their guests.

The couple invited Paul Zak, the head of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies in Claremont, California, to the wedding. Zak researches oxytocin and leapt at the opportunity to translate his studies into real life. His research has shown that oxytocin is the empathy chemical.

Linda and Nic believed that oxytocin levels in those close to them would raise as they witness the public bonding of a marriage. The sample was tested before and after the wedding, and oxytocin levels rose in the bridge, groom, and all the blood related family members.

Results of the blood tests on their friends were mixed however; oxytocin rose in some and not in others. Those who were genetically close seemed to have a deeper involvement, expressed as higher levels of oxytocin.

You can read Linda’s entire article here.

Zak believes that these results support the theory that public weddings evolved as a way of binding couples to their friends and family, perhaps as a way to ensure that friends and family will help raise and feel connected to the couples future children.  This could explain the neurochemical basis of the desire to have the big wedding rather than simply eloping.

As a write for New Scientist, Geddes clearly had the insight and resources to turn her wedding into a science experiment. We're hearing more and more about people experimenting on themselves. Maybe we'll see more of these citizen-scientist experiments.

French Confirm Nasal Oxytocin Helps ASD

A new French study of 13 high-functioning adults with autism spectrum disorder found that inhaling oxytocin made the subjects more social and open to relating to others.

According to the London Times, Elissar Andari, of the Institut des Sciences Cognitives, a French government centre for neuroscience research presented the findings at a conference.

The article doesn't say how long improvements lasted; in the first study of oxytocin for autism, Eric Hollander and Jennifer Bartz of the Seaver Centers for Autism found they lasted up to two weeks.

Why Your Heart and Your Head Don't Always Agree

Dear Susan,

I read Rachel's post and I was wondering what your take would be on my present dilemma. I've got mixed feelings towards my best male friend, who is also an online friend. We've known each other for almost two years now, and it's safe to say that I know most of him. I'm not naive, I made sure he wasn't just some old 35 year old perv from maine or whatever.

My problem is, I don't know how I feel about him anymore. It was platonic for most of the time that I knew him, but I guess I got really attached to him as time went by. I do care about him deeply, but we had some really rough times together.

I've got a lot of bitterness towards him, which I think definitely effects my conduct towards him, even though I try to not let that happen. I get angry and irritated at him for all the mixed signals, dramatics and insensitive moves that he keeps throwing at me, but for the past week, i keep thinking that this is no longer on a platonic plane for me. I feel at home with him sometimes, and it doesn't help that I have commitment issues, and we both have self-esteem issues. I have trust issues as well.

 Neither of us are looking for a relationship, yet I know that we both hope for something real in the future.

I can't even talk to him about this, because nothing will be the same. He's just too dramatic a character even though he appears to be calm and collected.

He rejected the idea of being with me a few months back, and besides I personally think that our goals, values and lifestyle just don't suit each other. More often then not, we're not even on the same page.

I've tried staying away from him several times before, but it never has really worked. I'm trying it again, and am hoping that these feelings will go away. However, what I don't get it, why do I feel this way about him?

My mind does not agree with my heart, but at the same time, part of my heart does. It remembers all the hurt that he has managed to cause. What do I do? What do I think? Please let me know what your take is on all this. Thank you in advance. Sorry for taking so much of your time. Have a good day! :)

Dear Ani,

Thank you for sharing your story. Here's what I got from your post: You feel like you're falling in love with your friend of two years. However, while you care for him, your relationship has been rocky. Intellectually, you don't think that you two are a good match for many reasons, and yet you can't let go of this feeling. Please let me know if I've got this wrong.

I think this is a pretty common emotional situation. I am thinking of a boyfriend I had, with whom I had brutal fights that seemed to come out of nowhere. But it happened so many times before we gave up, because I loved and wanted him so much.

You don't say whether you and your friend have ever hung out in person. If it's strictly an online friendship, then you are likely missing a lot of nonverbal cues and clues that might make his signals clearer -- even if you're having video chats, it's not the same as being in the same room. So, it could be that both of you are taking things the other says the wrong way. It could also be that if you could spend more time in physical proximity, you would realize that it really would not work.

You have doubtlessly built up an oxytocin charge in this relationship. Any time we engage in trusting interactions, including talking about feelings, ideals or dreams, we release oxytocin. This oxytocin bonds us to the other person, and it's a very good thing. We experience this feeling as our heart telling us something.

I think that a strong dopamine element may also be in play in this friendship. Dopamine is the brain chemical that makes us go after a reward. It's also involved in pleasure, and it combines with oxytocin to make us feel in love with someone else.

But here's the thing about dopamine: We get lots of it when we're trying to get the reward, but as soon as we actually get it, the dopamine levels drop.

I have found that getting mixed signals from a potential mate is the best way to get hopeless entangled and even obsessed. If someone will just tell me he doesn't want me, I can get over it. But when he sometimes wants me and sometimes rejects me, I stop being able to think about anything else but how to get a relationship with him.

I wonder if this is what's going on with you. The part of your brain that analyzes and makes decisions doesn't think this man is right for you as a mate. But the reward-seeking part of your brain keeps getting come/go away signals from him, so it is getting more and more focused on obtaining this prize -- and it's telling the thinking part of your brain that it's wrong.

Taking some time off from this relationship is probably a good thing -- but only if you can keep from thinking about him all the time. The best way to do this is to substitute going after some other kind of reward. The substitute reward doesn't have to be super-exciting, actually. Learning something new, going to an exciting movie, skiing … try to do something fun every day.

I know this guy is your best friend, but I hope you haven't neglected other friends. This is a great time to get some emotional support and love from other people. (Just be sure not to spend all your time with them talking about this relationship.)

Once you get your brain chemistry more balanced, your heart and your head can have another talk and make a decision about where you want this to go.

Good Interview with Eric Hollander on Oxytocin and ASD

-- with Jasvir Singh

Writer James Ottar Grundvig, who has an autistic child, spoke with Hollander about his past research, in which he showed that oxytocin could improve some of the symptoms of autism spectrum disorder, as well as what he plans for the future.

Hollander recently moved from the Seaver and New York Autism Center of Excellence at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine to the Child Psychiatry Annex at the Montefiore Medical Center University Hospital for Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

 The interview recaps Hollander's ground-breaking studies showing that intravenous or intranasal oxytocin  improved emotions, strengthened trust bonds, and reduced or eliminated repetitive behavior in healthy adults with ASD -- with improvement lasting two weeks after a single dose.

 Hollander also comments on other studies showing that oxytocin may help with schizophrenia and social anxiety disorder.

 Dr. Hollander is a clinical psychiatrist who spearheaded autism research at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and chairs the Advisory Board of icare4autism. He believes that doing oxytocin studies on ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) children is over two years away. More evidence and safety needs to be obtained before the FDA approves that phase of research. Until then, studies will focus on young adults, according to the interview.

 You can read the entire interview here in the Epoch Times.

Chemistry of Connection at-a-glance -- and free

In the business world, it's all about speed and bullet points. In the realm of love, not so much so. But hey, most of us have a foot in both worlds, so I thought I'd apply business writing principles to the science of love.

My book, The Chemistry of Connection: How the oxytocin response can help you find trust, intimacy and love, explains how the oxytocin response is the basis of all positive human emotions. It details how the oxytocin response is shaped by genetics and experience. Most important, it has practical advice that lets you change your brain chemistry and improve your oxytocin response so you can give and get the love you need.

But it's a crazy world, isn't it? If you're too busy to spend the time it would take you to read a book that is full of rich detail, insightful explanations, revealing analogies and narratives of scientific experiments on animals and humans, fine.

This information is so important and valuable that I'm making it available to every multitasking, overworked, overbooked human on the planet. In a bulleted, at-a-glance-style two-page document, I am going to give you the entire contents of my book. Love: Your Cheat Sheet gives you the most important points and an overview of how we connect -- and how we can do it better.

If you were a corporation, I would have charged you thousands of dollars to develop and deliver this Quick-Start Guide to Your Love Chemistry. But you can download it absolutely free, as part of the launch celebration for Love Her Right! The Married Man's Guide to Great Sex.

Joni-esther-photo I met Joni Frater and Esther Lastique, the couple who authored Love Her Right, when I appeared on their radio show last year to talk about my book. (Don't they look super-nice, super-fun and super-smart?)

I really like what they've done. It's a friendly and fun but super-informative book that covers female anatomy, sexual response and pleasuring techniques. I think every 14-year-old should get this book -- while being encouraged not to start practicing until they're 18 and with someone they trust.

No matter how old you are, I bet you can learn something from the book. If you buy it during the big launch, you'll get to download a bunch of free ebooks and podcasts -- including Love: Your Cheat Sheet.

To find out more about Love Her Right and download tons of free information on sex, love and relationships, go right here: