What Oxytocin Does In Your Brain Now That You’re A Dad

Love on the brain.

Originally Published: 
dad napping with baby

You already know smelling your baby is a hell of a drug. And that’s partially because of the oxytocin — that magical hormone produced when you take care of your kid, have sex with your partner, and/or eat an entire lasagna. While past research shows that parenting does indeed produce the same wonder chemical, a new experiment looks at if it works the other way around. Can an oxytocin boost make you a better parent? You’re damn right it can.

The study, published in the journal Hormones And Behavior, looked at fathers of one and 2-year-olds. Researchers compared a small sample of 30 men, who were either given oxytocin nasal spray — which is surprisingly not sold in the parking lot of a Phish concert — with men who were dosed with vasopressin, another hormone involved in social bonding. Then they tracked all the dad brains on an MRI while they viewed pictures of kids (their own and others), adults, and heard the sound of children crying (not their own).

Results showed that when fathers were given oxytocin and not vasopressin, regions of their brain associated with reward, empathy, and attention lit up — just like they do when you’re crushing it as a parent, in theory. Interestingly, this only happened when subjects saw pictures of their own kids, which may explain why you tune out when anyone else talks about theirs. But don’t worry about getting your hands on oxytocin spray. They only gave men an amount of the hormone that was on par with what dads produce naturally.

Simply put, you already have a boost and it’s your baby, so just take a whiff of that sucker (post diaper change, ideally). But if you still want more oxytocin — because why wouldn’t you want more of something that reduces stress, helps you sleep, and makes you a better lover? — there are some simple and obvious ways to do that. Namely, spend more time with your kid and have more sex with your partner. And you likely wanted to do both of those things anyways.

[H/T] Science Daily

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