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Why sex is better than embrace
From the point of view of a more traditional science, oxytocin is a hormone that causes
reduction of smooth muscles in the female genital tract. Its name comes from the Greek words ξύς (fast) and τόcos (birth), because the main function of oxytocin is to stimulate uterine contractions during childbirth. Oxytocin is sold in pharmacies, because both in human and in veterinary medicine it is widely used to stimulate labor and to stop uterine bleeding after them. During breastfeeding, oxytocin promotes the smooth muscles of the mammary glands and, consequently, the release of milk.
It is this function of oxytocin is traditionally considered the most important, and the impact on behavior is a funny side effect. But in fact they go side by side from the dark depths of the centuries: even in the primitive circular worm C. elegans, a substance very similar to oxytocin is synthesized in the nervous system and it is involved both in the learning processes and in the regulation of sexual behavior.
In mammals, oxytocin acts on memory in two ways. It is important for maintaining contacts with relatives (and for this you need to remember their faces or smells), but it can disrupt the formation of long-term memory of external unpleasant events. If the rats are placed on a safe area, which you should not leave, because the rest of the cage is under tension, the animals quickly remember that you do not need to walk around the cage and are sitting on a safe patch. But if oxytocin is administered in parallel with the training, then, once again and again in the same cage, they fearlessly go to explore the territory and burn their feet.
It can be assumed that the huge release of oxytocin during childbirth helps to forget that it was very painful and scary. Indeed, there is evidence that when women are asked to describe the pain experienced by them, the evaluation of its intensity decreases with time. It is unlikely that this mechanism arose for a woman to decide to have a second child - most of the human history this process was not so much realized (although it can be assumed that, other things being equal and larger numbers, more women are inculcated by women who are not afraid of childbirth ). But it is likely that the ability to forget birth pain helps to better treat the already born baby.
Oxytocin is directly related to the development of tender feelings for children. In 2010, Israeli researchers confirmed this by examining 160 couples who gave birth to their first child. They came to visit families in a month and six months after birth, measured the level of oxytocin in both parents and recorded on video how moms and dads play with their babies. It turned out that both in moms and dads, the level of oxytocin increases during the first months of a child's life, and there is a clear correlation between his concentration in the blood and parental behavior. Moms with a high level of oxytocin in the blood a lot of kissing their children, stroking them and telling them affectionate words. On fathers oxytocin acts a little differently - it stimulates to engage with the child and to provoke him to perform some actions (for example, to watch the toy).
Perhaps it's the other way around: not oxytocin stimulates us to deal with children, and fussing with children raises oxytocin levels.
All of us have seen a magic mantra in scientific and pseudo-scientific publications a hundred times "correlation does not say anything about a causal relationship" - that's exactly the case. In all likelihood, the positive effects here are closed in a cycle. On the one hand, physical contact with the child (both with its own and with someone else) causes an increase in the concentration of oxytocin, on the other - the introduction of oxytocin (and in double-blind tests, when even the experimenters themselves do not know whether they administer oxytocin or placebo) improves attitude towards children9 - both facts are established experimentally.
"The hormone of love" is important not only for relationships with the cubs, but also for the relationship with the partner. In evolution, in general, it often happens that a lot of additional ones are wound on top of the main function. It was this story that happened to the feathers. Dinosaurs grew them for thermal insulation, then they began to use to attract partners, and no one else knew then that the feathers would allow one of the dinosaur groups to learn how to fly, survive and capture the world - these creatures are known as "birds." In the formation of attachments, the evolutionary principle "why come up from scratch when you can process the file with what's there" also works: new brain functions (for example, the ability to monogamous relationships) can easily develop on the basis of old neural structures (for example, those involved in parental behavior) .
The best connection of oxytocin and attachment to a partner is studied in female steppe voles, one of the few monogamous species of rodents. Normally, the vole-virgin, having spent the night with a partner, becomes attached to him, aspires to spend with him as much time as possible and reacts aggressively to other males. Attachment formation is caused by ejection of dopamine and oxytocin in the nucleus adjacent ("pleasure center"). If before the meeting to block receptors to one of these neurotransmitters, the first man will not make any impression on the vole, and she will continue to search for a partner as if nothing had happened. But if, on the contrary, to introduce the volta oxytocin (or substances that activate the receptors for dopamine), then she will fall in love with the first male counterpart even without any sex.
Fortunately, we are not injected into the brain, and therefore, oxytocin for affection to the partner has to be extracted naturally. The most effective way to increase its concentration is just vaginal sex. The fact is that all mammals have a Ferguson reflex: an increase in the concentration of oxytocin in response to mechanical stimulation of the vagina and cervix. On veterinary sites, you can find such advice: if a pig gave birth to pigs, but can not start feeding them, then you need to take a bicycle pump, pump it into the vagina of the air and clamp your hands to the labia to keep the air out. The created pressure will lead to an increase in milk yield, for which oxytocin is needed. Similar advice can be given to men who want to strengthen affection with their beloved: she needs to provide mechanical stimulation of the vagina. Usually it is done by having sex for a long time, but in principle you can also try with a bicycle pump. Perhaps, after this, a woman will never really forget you.
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Why sex is better than embrace
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