Mothers Are Oxytocin Machines


Baby's face embraced by mother's hands
Photo by Chiến Phạm on Unsplash

It's the time of year when we honor and thank mothers for all they do. I think their most important job is literally wiring their babies' brains so that they can learn to love.


Strangely enough, while humans are born with the ability to breathe, digest food and wave our arms and legs, we don't come out of the womb with the neural wiring to form social connections. In the first three years of life, the brain goes through a huge growth spurt, and millions of brain cells connect with each other to form neural scripts—that is, habitual ways of reacting to events.

When a mother feeds her baby, cuddles her, cares for him, oxytocin is released in the baby's brain. Oxytocin is a calming brain chemical, so the combination of oxytocin and a mother's touch teaches the baby that intimacy is safe and feels good.

This forms a healthy, lifelong neural script: Someone who was nurtured well instinctively reaches out to other people for pleasure or consolation. And it's a positive feedback loop: Connecting with others makes us feel better, so we're more likely to do it again and again.

Human connection, driven by oxytocin, isn't only important for our emotional wellbeing. It's also key to good health and longevity.

By the way, when I say "mother," that doesn't have to be a woman or a biological parent; a baby's primary caregiver, if he or she is lucky enough to have one, fulfills this role. But since it's Mother's Day, I'll stick with "mother."

We commonly talk about all the roles a mother plays: nurturer, healer, teacher, chauffeur, cleaner, role model, etc. etc. But maybe her most powerful role is architect--architect of the human brain and its ability to enjoy one of the most resonant human experiences: love.

Chem book cover smallMy book, The Chemistry of Connection explains how the oxytocin response develops and how it affects all our relationships throughout our lives. It's a great gift for mothers, mothers-to-be, and anyone else who wants to understand how and why we love.

My publisher, New Harbinger, has a special offer: Buy 3 books and receive 35% off + free shipping*

Use this code: MHA2018

Offer ends May 31, 2018.

*Valid only in the continental United States. Not to be combined with any other offer.

Click here to buy my book and shop New Harbinger for deep discounts and free shipping.

Vampires, Angels and Oxytocin

I woke up thinking about Glory, Devin O'Branagan's book in the vampire genre.I realized that there's an oxytocin story here.

O'Branagan creates a world with an even more complex set of races than Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series.

 Twilight's Bella has to choose between Jacob the werewolf and Edward the vampire -- and that's no decision at all. As she tells Jacob in the firs tmovie, "Don't make me choose, because it will always be him."

In Glory, Glory, the heroine, finds out that there are all sorts of races living with humans, sometimes helping, sometimes fighting, sometimes ignoring them. Glory is torn between two romantic interests, Zane, a vampire, and Dominic, an angel. She's deeply moved by and attracted to both of them in different ways.

(For more about the psychology of vampire love, read Fangs, Blood and Romance -- Oh My!)

Glory has an intense attraction to each of them. With Zane, it's  blood-boiling lust. When he touches her or kisses her, her whole body ignites. With Dominic, she seems to sink into a blissful sense of union with , feeling deeply connected.

That sounds like testosterone vs oxytocin to me. Vampire Zane, who is also a cowboy, incites testosterone-fueled lust, while angelic Dominic evokes the release of calmly connecting oxytocin.

While Twilight's Jacob is very sweet and Edward is super-sexy, I can also see the oxytocin/testosterone contrast in them. Especially in the movies, Jacob has the superb muscles of a high-testosterone, alpha male. Edward, on the other hand, exhibits more oxytocin traits: He is sweet to Bella, is part of a family and community that is close and bonded, and he advocates for peace among all beings. (He's also more "pretty," especially when he sparkles.)

So, it's very clear why, for Bella, "It will always be Edward." And it's clear to me whom Glory should choose.

Nature seems to have intended that hot lust to get us over our fear of strangers and cause us to have lots of sex. But that sex is supposed to release oxytocin, which creates a deep and long-lasting bond -- long-lasting enough to keep us together when lust inevitably fades.

Glory should choose Domenic. I'd bet that in the final installment of the Glory saga, Zane will sacrifice himself to save Glory. Is there a future for human Glory and angelic Dominic? Who knows?


Change Your Love Style


Getting Back to Love, by Joseph and Sarah Malinak, is a book about changing the love styles we learned during infancy and childhood so that we can make the kind of love connection we want. In The Chemistry of Connection, I described how our early experiences of mothering influence our brain development and neurochemistry. I see Getting Back to Love  as a sort of sequel to Chemistry. In their book, Joseph and Sarah Malinak explain how these early, pre-conscious experiences play out in adulthood.

In the book, they describe syndromes they call Mama's Boys and Daddy's Girls: People who never grow up into adult men and women.

"When a man depends on a woman for his worth as a man, he is invariably disappointed, because his worth as a man can only be sustained if it comes from within." (The same goes for women who define themselves by their worth to a man -- and, although the Malinaks don't mention this, I think it holds true for a gay man or woman who defines him or herself by their worth to a potential lover.)

Daddy's Girls are taught that the man is the most important thing in their lives, while Mama's Boys learn that their power comes only from women.

Mama's Boys and Daddy's Girls are created, according to the book, through lack of connection with their same-sex parents. Around puberty, boys and girls need to spend more time with fathers or mothers, who help initiate them into not necessarily gender roles, but rather, into the essence of femininity or masculinity. Michael Gurian, author of The Wonder of Boys and many other books, writes about this as well. And, of course, in this era of single-parent families, that can be especially difficult for boys.

The Malinaks certainly put some things in my own relationships in a new light. I am definitely a Daddy's Girl; this makes sense, because I always had a very hard time with my mother, and never felt that she loved me or cared for me (in the literal sense). For example, the way they described the dynamic of my struggles with Mike around housekeeping and maintaining our house helped me see it in a new way.

According to Getting Back to Love, the problem is my underlying belief that men can't be counted on. I know my mother felt this about my father -- and for the first 40 years of my life, I unconsciously pushed away any sweet and caring man who showed genuine interest in me. Moreover, they write, I unconsciously attracted Mama's Boys who tried to finagle me into taking care of them one way or another.

Okay, so how do you get out of this crazy dance? Their advice is to try to become conscious of these unconscious feelings and beliefs and then, when you do notice them, refuse to act on them. Their example felt a bit unrealistic to me: If you've each agreed to do your own laundry, but his just piles up in the middle of the floor, don't do it for him. Just ignore it. It's his responsibility, and he'll take care of it eventually. I have this problem with the dishes; Mike leaves his all over the place. It's pretty hard to ignore when I'm trying to make lunch and our very limited counter space is covered with dirty bowls and forks. Many times, I feel that he tries to maneuver me into nagging him. Because I learned hyper-critical behavior from my mom, it's easy for him to do. So, I guess I would have to give up being able to use the kitchen counters in order to have a healthier relationship? Durnit!

 After we become adults, it's equally important to spend time with same-sex friends, as well as opposite-sex friends and lovers, they write. Our friends "refresh" our femininity or masculinity, according to the Malinaks.

They also share their own love story -- and it illustrates how a healthy, oxytocin-based relationship develops. They met in a self-development program, and liked each other without feeling that intense, nerve-wracking romantic excitement (based on dopamine and norepinephrine) that characterizes romantic love. Instead, as they spent time together, Sarah one day realized that when love songs played on the radio, her thoughts drifted to Joseph. Then, as she moved more consciously toward him as a lover, the excitement came.

Then, they "did something neither had done before , either on a date or at the start of a romantic relationship. In clear recognition of their feelings for each other, they laid it all out on the table."

Ultimately, they remind us, "It's all about you." If you continually find yourself in relationships with someone who demands to be taken care of or bosses you around, it's because of the way you relate to others. Another way of saying this that I've always liked is, "Instead of trying to find the right person, try to be the right person."

Talking Tonight with Lesa Trapp of Odd Mind


Lesa interviews artists and writers for her BlogTalk Radio show, Odd Mind. I'm excited to talk with her tonight about my book, The Chemistry of Connection, and also the writing process. Not so much the creative process, but just getting it off the ground as a book project.

The show is at 7 PM Pacific tonight, May 14. You'll be able to listen to the archived show online, but it would be soooo fun if you participated, either via chat or telephone call-in. You can find all the info on her radio show's site:

Official Launch of My Oxytocin Book


The Chemistry of Connection
, my book about how the oxytocin response affects our lives and loves, is now available online and in bookstores. It's been a five-year process, writing two different books for two different publishers. And it was all worth it. I really like the book and I'm proud of it.

I hope you will read it, and, to sweeten the deal, I got together with three fascinating women to do a book publication promotion. If you buy the book today, you can download their e-books for free. You'll get information and insights to transform your connections no matter what stage of live or love you're in, from looking to long-contented.

Go to the promotion now at, or read on to learn more about these bonus gifts.

They are:

Marilyn Gordon, a transformational teacher, healer and writer -- who helped  me overcome writer's block and love writing this book

Joy Nordenstrom, whose Intelligent Love: 411 for Men is a smart and fun use of neuroscience to help explain love; she's CEO of Joy of Romance, and hosts fantastic aphrodisiac dinner parties

Sarah Malinak, an author who, with her husband, puts out an insightful newsletter about relationships, as well as explaining how love patterns we learned as kids play out in adult relationships

Cynthia Lubow, MFT, a psychotherapist and author who specializes in helping people with all levels of depression; she's developed science-based self-care methods that can really work

To download these excellent books, you can either go directly to Amazon to buy the book, or start at Make a note of your Amazon purchase confirmation code, and then click on the link on my book's site to register the purchase.

This promotion will end on April 9!

And please, let me know what you think of the book.

Unlimited Business Financing -- Doable in These Untrusting Times?

Busfinancing Unlimited Business Financing is a simple guide to getting business credit. I'm taking part in a big promotion for this book, by Trent and Chad Lee, to test this approach for marketing my own book, which is available on Amazon right now!

I wrote a short e-book especially to help promote Unlimited Business Financing. This e-book, Boost Your Career with Oxytocin -- Naturally, contains material that I thought was really important and interesting. It explains how the oxytocin response also lets us collaborate and cooperate in business -- and how trust contributes to the bottom line.

We're seeing now that small businesses are struggling because they can't get loans. The banks don't trust them. Unlimited Business Financing explains how to build a business credit history. In other words, it tells you how to position your business as trustworthy in the eyes of financial institutions.

A year ago, my publisher disagreed with me about how important the issue of trust in business is, and I had to cut it from The Chemistry of Connection. With the loss of trust in our financial institutions, our employers, and business in general that we've experienced over the last few months, I think it's very timely.

You can get my e-book free, along with 22 other free books and audio programs, after you buy Trent and Chad Lee's book.

To get the freebies when you buy the book, first go to Click through to Amazon, buy the book, and then fill in your receipt code.

Please let me know what you think about the book and this promotional idea.

Chili Peppers: Aphrodisiac or Cuddle Food?

In a recent comment, MR asked for help tracking down scientific references for the internet wisdom that eating chilis causes a release of oxytocin.

I'd always heard that chili and other spicy foods were good for, um, pepping up your sex drive. Makes intuitive sense: hot chili = hot sex, etc. So far, the only article I found said that injecting capsaicin, the "active" ingredient in chili, under the skin of mice reduced the number of oxytocin and vasopressin-producing neurons in their brains.

I believe the origin of this info is the undated article Hot Lover by Nina Planck. The article is mostly a charming and fun paean to the delights of cooking with chilis -- and eating them raw, in her case! Near the end, she makes the intriguing -- and provocative statement:

"... giving animals capsaicin, the chile drug, causes a massive release of oxytocin, far more than the oxytocin surge from eating just any food."

I emailed Nina, and she kindly responded, saying the info was from unpublished studies by Joseph Verbalis of Georgetown, who studies the role of oxytocin and vasopressin in appetite and water regulation.Paperback_Real_Food_Book

Planck is author of the very popular Real Food: What to Eat and Why. I love her take on food, which is basically, if you eat a variety of natural whole foods, you don't need to worry about what you eat. This is something I've done for years, piling on the butter and chewing the beef fat, and my cholesterol is awesome.

She also advocates for "real birth," that is, natural, non-industrial birth. I'm glad we have such a strong voice for the general goodness of eating and living simply and well.

The Chemistry of Connection Book Cover

It's been a really long time coming, and the book has evolved a lot in the four years I've been working on it. It's finally getting close, and here is its first, almost-physical manifestation: the cover.


You can also pre-order it on here:

Update on "Love Chemistry: The Book"

As a lot of you know, I started this blog while researching a book to explain how oxytocin lets us love and bond -- and how a weak oxytocin response can leave us lonely.

That book should have been coming out any day now -- but it's not going to. In 2006, I got a contract with Amacom Books, and delivered the manuscript last June. Boy, does that seem far away by blogging and internet standards.

Two months later, I got a brief email from my editor saying it wasn't publishable as it stood and needed more work. Fair enough. But I never got feedback from him about what he wanted. As the months dragged on, we missed the spring 2008 publication date, then fall 2008, and we were on track to miss spring 2009. Still no word.

So, I found a wonderful new publisher and a kind editor who's already given me more feedback and help than Amacom ever did. That's the good news. The bad news is, my book is now scheduled for publication in spring 2009 by New Harbinger.

I'll continue to write this blog, tracking the latest research, which continues hot and heavy, and also looking at how the awareness of the oxytocin response is reflected in the media.

My Appearance on Dr. Mike's Radio Show

It was a thrill and a great honor for me to have been interviewed by Mike Roizen, the co-author of You: The Owners Manual and several other books in this series.

His show, "You The Owner's Manual with Dr. Mike," is broadcast in several markets and available online.

Roizenand co-author Mehmet Oz are MDs and leaders in their fields. Roizen is a professor of anesthesiology and internal medicine at Case Western Reserve Medical School and chair of the Division of Anesthesiology, Critical Care Medicine, and Comprehensive Pain Management at the Cleveland Clinic. Oz is professor and vice chairman of surgery, New York Presbyterian-Columbia University. Dr. Oz is also medical director of the Integrated Medical Center and director of the Heart Institute, New York Presbyterian/Columbia Medical Center.

Despite their heavy-duty credentials, their books are highly digestible, while being packed with scientific information you can use to improve your health.

It was exciting to go on the show and discuss what I've found about oxytocin's role in life and love.

Here's how to find the show; my segment starts at about 35:00.

HealthRadio.Net - Compelling Talk Radio for every-Body!
Show Title: You The Owner's Manual w/ Dr. Mike: Hour 2 (2007-08-25)
Guest: Susan Kuchinskas
Host: Dr. Mike Roizen
(Click to listen or find out more)