What I find incredible about oxytocin is that literally all of the information is spot on for me. I’m a high oxytocin producer and I display all the tendencies that result when people are given oxytocin or have high oxytocin genes.
This post deals with the most significant oxytocin receptor genes that 23andme has data for (the new chip). Get your 23andme to see if you have this gene and go one step further to unlock the secrets in your genes using SelfDecode.
- About Oxytocin
- Benefits of Oxytocin
- Conditions With Lower Oxytocin
- How to Increase Oxytocin Naturally
- The Danger of Increasing Oxytocin
- Should You Increase Oxytocin?
- What Are Your Genes for Oxytocin?
Oxytocin plays an important role in social behavior and wound healing.
Benefits of Oxytocin
Oxytocin is thought to decrease inflammation by decreasing certain cytokines. Thus, the increased release of oxytocin following positive social interactions has the potential to improve wound healing.
Oxytocin is important for female sexual interest in males. In mice, a lack of oxytocin (receptor) in female mice resulted in a loss of social interest in male mice specifically during the sexually receptive phase of the estrous cycle.
Oxytocin injected into the cerebrospinal fluid causes spontaneous penile erections in rats [R].
Oxytocin facilitates erectile capacity in the male, providing ecstasy and is released in larger amounts during orgasm. This burst of oxytocin in the male is said to have been responsible for the sexual after-effect of a lingering sense of drowsy well-being, the glow of pleasant contentment. Oxytocin is also claimed to promote the male’s nurturing behavior and his feeling affectionate towards his woman [R].
Oxytocin increased a fathers’ overall stress response when dealing with their infant and challenged with a stressor. [R].
Giving oxytocin to people increases trust and generosity [R] It reduces the fear of social betrayal in humans.
Disclosure of emotional events is a sign of trust in humans. When recounting a negative event, humans who receive oxytocin (nasal) share more emotional details and stories with more emotional significance.
Oxytocin increases generosity in the Ultimatum Game by 80% [R]. This is a game where someone receives money and proposes how to divide the sum between himself and another player. The second player chooses to either accept or reject this proposal. If the second player accepts, the money is split according to the proposal. If the second player rejects, neither player receives any money.
Oxytocin supplementation increases empathy in healthy males. Even after experiencing social alienation, humans who received oxytocin were still more trustful [R].
Oxytocin can efficiently inhibit fear responses by inhibiting activation of the amygdala [R].
Some researchers have argued oxytocin has a general enhancing effect on all social emotions since oxytocin (nasal) also increases envy and Schadenfreude (joy at downfall) [R].
Oxytocin only increases trust when there is no reason to be distrustful. When there is a reason to be distrustful, such as experiencing betrayal, oxytocin functions differently.
Oxytocin increases romantic attraction and attachment in males as well and helps promote fidelity within monogamous relationships [R].
Supplemental oxytocin can decrease memory of bad experiences and increase memory for social information [R].
For example, males given oxytocin show improved memory for human faces, in particular, happy faces. They also show improved recognition for positive social cues over threatening social cues and improved recognition of fear.
Oxytocin and In-Group Favoritism
Therefore, when extended to the social domain, unfamiliar individuals whose behavior is inherently unpredictable will not result in empathy and instead cause anxiety/dislike.
Oxytocin may strengthen existing social bonds (for example, between relatives/friends), but it does not help create new bonds between strangers, implying that it is less of a ‘love’ or ‘moral’ molecule than a ‘us and them’ molecule.
Indeed, oxytocin boosts anti-social behaviors towards unfamiliar individuals [R].
Oxytocin can increase positive attitudes toward individuals with similar characteristics, who then become classified as “in-group” members, whereas individuals who are dissimilar become classified as “out-group” members [R].
Oxytocin promotes ethnocentric behavior, incorporating the trust and empathy of in-groups with their suspicion and rejection of outsiders.
Oxytocin was shown to promote dishonesty when the outcome of lying benefited the group to which an individual belonged (the in-group) [R].
When given oxytocin, individuals alter their subjective preferences in order to align with in-group ideas over out-group ideals [R].
The in-group bias is evident in smaller groups; however, it can also be extended to groups as large as one’s entire country leading toward a tendency of strong national zeal. A study done in the Netherlands showed that oxytocin increased the in-group favoritism of their nation while decreasing acceptance of members of other ethnicities and foreigners [R].
It has thus been hypothesized that this hormone may be a factor in xenophobic tendencies.
Further, oxytocin was correlated with participant desire to protect vulnerable in-group members [R].
Oxytocin and Appetite
Recent evidence has suggested that oxytocin neurons in the hypothalamus may play a key role in suppressing appetite under normal conditions and that other hypothalamic neurons may trigger eating via inhibition of these oxytocin neurons.
Conditions With Lower Oxytocin
How to Increase Oxytocin Naturally
- Having sex, sexual stimulation [R].
- Orgasms – causes big burst [R, R] – Subjective orgasm intensity correlated significantly with increased levels of Oxytocin in multiorgasmic women only.
- Nipple stimulation [R]
- Cuddling/touching [R]
- Falling in love [R]
- Vagus stimulation
- Soothing music [R]
- Positive social encounters
- Eating [R]
- Warm showers/Warm temperature [R]
- Yoga [R, R]
- Massage [R]
- Exercise [R]
- Kindness meditation (likely) [R]
- Dark Chocolate
- Fenugreek [R]
- Vitamin D helps produce oxytocin [R]
- Melatonin makes you more sensitive to oxytocin [R, R]
- Lowering cortisol
- Estrogen [R] – contradictory [R]
- TRH has mixed effects [R]
- Magnesium – is required for oxytocin to function [R]
- Cholesterol – is required for oxytocin to function [R]
- High dose vitamin C [R]
- L Reuteri [R]
- Caffeine [R]
- MDMA (ecstasy) [R]
- Nursing [R]
- Petting dogs (humans) [R]
- Probably Babies and Kittens
- Activating your 5HT1A receptors, 5HT2A receptors [R] and 5HT2C receptors
- Dopamine – dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens can ultimately activate oxytocin neurons and induce penile erection [R].
- GABA [R]
Oxytocin Sprays and Sublinguals: My Experience
I’ve experimented with oxytocin both in the spray and sublingual forms.
I did a mega-dosing experiment with the lozenge by taking 10-15 (10-15X the dosage), with no ill effect. The lozenges can reach the hypothalamus and brain stem, which aren’t protected by the brain barrier. However, it can’t enter the brain because oxytocin can’t cross the brain barrier. From the lozenge, I noticed small effects, but nothing significant.
The spray can cross the brain barrier, however, and I certainly notice a relaxing cognitive effect. The spray is used in scientific studies.
I’m more emotional when I take it.
The Danger of Increasing Oxytocin
The main danger is retaining too much water and causing hyponatremia (or low sodium), but even my megadosing experiment caused no ill effects. I did feel like I retained water during the experiment.
Should You Increase Oxytocin?
If you have certain genes (rs53576 GG), then you can actually benefit even more from oxytocin [R], and this probably has something to do with you having more receptors or them being more sensitive to it.
This suggests that processing the oxytocin in a certain way is what matters more.
What Are Your Genes for Oxytocin?
It would be interesting for people to list their genes and measure themselves subjectively as to how empathetic they are.
I recommend using the SelfDecode app.
The Most Significant Oxytocin Gene: rs53576
This is the main and most significant oxytocin receptor gene. But there are a bunch of others that are significant as well. I speak about this one more in depth if you scroll below because the most research has been done on it.
This gene essentially makes you more sensitive to oxytocin.
GG is the social version and about 37% of the global population has this. This makes you more optimistic and empathetic and allows you to handle stress well.
The GG version promotes the efficient functioning of the oxytocin system and enhances the effects of oxytocin supplementation [R].
The gene frequency varies by race: ~61% of Africans have it (in Africa), ~41% of Europeans (~30% of Finns) and ~10% of Asians [R].
The Benefits of rs53576
Since this is the most important gene, I focus on this.
- GG has a more positive ‘effect’ or disposition [R] AA and AG individuals were judged to be less pro-social and displayed fewer nonverbal cues — head nods and smiles — compared to GG people. The study suggested that the association between and prosociality was stronger for men, but also true for women [R].
- GG are more optimistic.
- GG are more empathetic.
- GG handle stress better.
- GG are better at accurately reading the emotions of others by observing their faces compared to AA or AG.
- GG are less likely to startle when blasted by a loud noise or to become stressed at the prospect of such a noise.
- GG were mellower and more attuned to other people than were the AA or AG.
- GG have a higher Verbal IQ [R].
- GG feel less lonely.
- GG was less likely to seek support from their peers.
- GG employ more sensitive parenting techniques.
- GG have lower rates of autism.
- GG have less difficulty hearing and understanding in noisy environments.
- In response to an interview, GG or AG had significantly lower cortisol responses to stress when they had social support. There were no differences in cortisol levels in subjects with the A; A genotype receiving or not receiving social support. The A; A genotype tended to have higher levels of cortisol throughout the session than G carriers (no differences between the genotypes were observed at baseline).
- GG have more gray matter volume in the hypothalamus and greater hypothalamus volume and more activation in the amygdala.
- GG are less predisposed to major depression [R].
The Negatives of rs53576
Other Oxytocin Genes
People with the G allele had higher oxytocin levels than T carriers (T=.37) [R].
GG or GT are the social versions. In a game that tested how generous people are, TT gave on average 18.3 shekels to the ‘other’, while GG or GT gave on average 25 shekels to the other [R] About 14% of the global population has TT.
In romantic relationships, the TT version was associated with less empathic concern to their partner’s distress, displayed lower social reciprocity in a support-giving interaction, and persisted less in attending to their partner’s communication and maintaining focus on providing support [R].
G is social allele [R], but as you’ll see the effects are mixed for this.
AG and AA (both 18.1) had the highest empathy in “perspective taking” (a tendency of placing yourself in the position of others) compared to GG (16.0) [R].
GG had the highest level of “personal distress” empathy (16.8) (subjective feelings when observing the anguish and pain endured by others) compared to AA (15.3) and AG (14.4) [R].
GG had highest “Fantasy” empathy (18.5) (the extent to which people can immerse themselves in the conditions of the fictitious characters’ feelings and actions) compared to both AA and AG (15.1). Fantasy empathy probably is a factor in how much you like novels [R].
About 66% of the global population will have either GG or AG and about 34% of the global population has the AA version (less social).
CC or CT has been associated with empathy, whereas TT (the risky version) has been linked to decreased expression of oxytocin receptors in the brain, depressive mood and greater risk for Autism [R].
~48% of the population will have CT, ~36% will have TT and 16% will have CC (C=0.40)…
In romantic relationships, the TT version was associated with less empathic concern to their partner’s distress, displayed lower social reciprocity in a support-giving interaction, and persisted less in attending to their partner’s communication and maintaining focus on providing support [R] This was based on observed behavior rather than self-reports. This study was looking at a group of genes in total, so it’s best not to read into it too much.
But based on a different study, total empathy wasn’t really different in most situations between groups. However, CT has the most empathy with females [R].
CT had the highest level of empathy (IRI=68.7), followed by TT (65.8) and then CC (60.7) [R].
The same was true for “cognitive empathy”, which is simply knowing how the other person feels and what they might be thinking. 59% of the population has CT, 32% have TT and 9% have CC [R].
AG is the most empathetic version (IRI=70.8), while GG and AA were equal in total empathy (~65.4). In cognitive empathy (putting yourself in someone else’s situation), AG (35.9) was the highest followed by GG (34.2) and AA (32.8) [R].
In romantic relationships, the GG version was associated with less empathic concern to their partner’s distress, displayed lower social reciprocity in a support-giving interaction, and persisted less in attending to their partner’s communication and maintaining focus on providing support [R]. This was based on observed behavior rather than self-reports. This study was looking at a group of genes in total, so it’s best not to read into it too much.
About 64% of the global population has GG, which is the less social version and 36% have either AA or AG (A=0.20).
For males, CC is the most empathetic, especially with emotional empathy…. and CT the least. For females, CT and TT are the most empathetic. 49.5% of the population has CC, 27% has CT and 24% has TT [R].
TT is the social version. About 86% of the global population has TT…The A allele, which is not common(A=.07), was associated with risk for Autism, which suggests lower oxytocin or worse processing of it…
In romantic relationships, the AA version was associated with less empathic concern to their partner’s distress, displayed lower social reciprocity in a support-giving interaction, and persisted less in attending to their partner’s communication and maintaining focus on providing support [R] This was based on observed behavior rather than self-reports.
This gene is significant only in males with regard to empathy/kindness (dictator game and social value orientation). [R].
It doesn’t specify which alleles, but the minor allele is A (.36), which most often is the “risk” allele. So AA would probably indicate less empathy is males, but I don’t know.
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