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Oxytocin: The Love Hormone May Have a Dark Side

From the Show: Health Radio
Summary: Why is oxytocin called the love hormone?
Air Date: 6/15/15
Duration: 10
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guest Bio: Paul Zak, PhD
Paul J. ZakPaul J. Zak is a scientist, prolific author, and public speaker. His book, The Moral Molecule: The Source of Love and Prosperity, was published in 2012 and was a finalist for the Wellcome Trust Book Prize.

He is the founding Director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies and Professor of Economics, Psychology and Management at Claremont Graduate University. Dr. Zak also serves as Professor of Neurology at Loma Linda University Medical Center.

He has degrees in mathematics and economics from San Diego State University, a Ph.D. in economics from University of Pennsylvania, and post-doctoral training in neuroimaging from Harvard. He is credited with the first published use of the term "neuroeconomics" and has been a vanguard in this new discipline. He organized and administers the first doctoral program in neuroeconomics.

Dr. Zak's lab discovered in 2004 that the brain chemical oxytocin allows us to determine who to trust. His current research has shown that oxytocin is responsible for virtuous behaviors, working as the brain's "moral molecule." This knowledge is being used to understand the basis for civilization and modern economies, improve negotiations, and treat patients with neurologic and psychiatric disorders.

Dr. Zak's work on oxytocin and relationships has earned him the nickname "Dr. Love."
  • Book Title: The Moral Molecule: The Source of Love and Prosperity
Oxytocin: The Love Hormone May Have a Dark Side
Remember Beyonce's song, "Drunk In Love"?

She might have been right all along.

When you're snuggling up next to your partner, rocking your newborn baby to sleep, or hugging one of your best friends, your brain releases a feel good chemical called oxytocin.

Doctors call this hormone the love hormone, since it plays a major role in your emotions.

However, a recent study conducted by University of Birmingham researchers compared how the effects of both oxytocin and alcohol impact your brain.

Turns out, oxytocin and alcohol have similar effects on your brain. Both can increase feelings of envy, favoritism, and aggression... quite the opposite of love and affection.

Paul Zak, PhD, discusses oxytocin and how the love hormone could have a dark side.

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