The headlines of a recent article in MedlinePlus announced that recent evidence has shown that the 'Love Hormone', oxytocin, may boost our 'memories of mama' -- either good ones or bad ones. Prior to the study it was believed that oxytocin was only an early bonding hormone which helped establish and bolster the relationship between the newborn and its mother.
This study, which seemed to contradict our established knowledge of the effects of oxytocin, was described in the November 29, 2010 journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. Its lead author, Jennifer Bartz, wrote that, after all, it turns out that oxytocin is "...not this universal attachment panacea."
Those had previously worked with the hormone had believed that the hormone worked as a positive reinforcer of the bonding feeling, as it was thought that the 'love hormone' would make attachments and bonding even more deeper. In reality, that effect only occurs if the baby had loving feelings towards its mother. If the attachment was not good, because mom was not caring then, its only effect was to make "the early memory of that (bad) relationship...stronger." In those cases, the hormone dose "seemed to encourage them to dwell on the negative" aspects of the early relationship.†
Keith A Young, a researcher at Texas A&M, says that "oxytocin seemed to tap into the actual memory rather than making everything better." (my emphasis)
The implications of what was discovered seem to have therapy applications, since "another study found that it improved the perception of social cues in high-functioning autism." Perhaps the administration of oxytocin could be used as an aid in the unrepressing of traumas in the deep abreactive psychotherapies! Methinks it would be worth a try.
So the hormone can function to enhance the positive qualities of trust and love, and it can also release a negative quality such as jealousy, despair, etc. This is added proof that the early experiences we had with our mothers stay with us and are a map which we inevitably follow in our act outs as we live our lives. It seemed that the oxytocin amplifies whatever initial memories men had about their mothers, either happy or not so happy.
The research was based on results obtained from thirty-one men, aged 19 to 45 who were asked about the quality of care they had received from their mothers during childhood.
The same men also visited the clinic in a monthly interval to receive oxytocin and then later to receive a placebo. In this sense they were their own controls.
Men who reported their mothers as caring, before receiving a nasal administration of of oxytocin, felt even more highly of them after the shot.
But another group who were described as "anxiously attached" soon began lowering or downgrading their assessment of mom. This position backed up the idea that oxytocin may somehow play a role in the formation of these memories.
Most of the previous evidence about oxytocin's function as an attachment hormone had been derived from animal studies.
†Would not the hormone also stimulate women's memories? Why were women not included in the study?