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Elvis: The King of Oxytocin

5255904360_3f942aa811Need an oxytocin rush? Let Elvis Presley get those juices flowing.

Williams Syndrome is a genetic disorder characterized by medical problems and developmental disabilities, on the downside, as well as striking verbal abilities, highly social personalities and an affinity for music, according to the Williams Syndrome Association.

In a study of 21 people, 13 with Williams Syndrome (WS) and a control, led by Julie R. Korenberg, Ph.D., M.D., University of Utah/USTAR professor, Circuits of the Brain and pediatrics, the people with WS had three times as much oxytocin circulating in their blood as the control group. (Thus, the highly social aspect of the syndrome.)

The researchers drew additional blood several times during the experiment, to measure changes in levels of oxytocin and vasopressin as the participants listened to music. One participant was asked to listen to Elvis' "Love Me Tender." The others listened to tunes of their choice.

According to the University of Utah,

The analyses showed that the oxytocin levels, and to a lesser degree AVP, had not only increased but begun to bounce among WS participants while among those without WS, both the oxytocin and AVP levels remained largely unchanged as they listened to music. Interestingly, the oxytocin level in the woman who’d listened to “Love Me Tender” skyrocketed compared to the levels of participants who listened to different music.

Elvis is the king of that swarmy, dreamy feeling, and evidently, that feeling comes from oxytocin.

I'd bet that neurotypical folks would show a similar increase in oxytocin when listening to Elvis Presley -- or other emotionally stirring music, albeit not such a marked increase. To me, this study validates another of those oxytocin memes that just make intuitive sense, that music that delights us would elevate our oxytocin levels.

Illustration: Luiz Fernando/Sonia Maria