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Fear and Bonding Roundup

November 2, 2007

The hormone oxytocin helps mothers bond with their babies.


The chemistry of motherhood. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

A brain chemical called oxytocin has long been known as the love hormone. In fact, farmers sometimes inject the compound into pregnant ewes to help them bond with their lambs. In the journal Psychological Science, researchers report that the compound is just as potent in people. They found that pregnant women who have high levels of oxytocin in their first trimester will go on to bond more closely with their babies than moms who had low levels of the compound.

A study in the journal Emotion suggests that people are much quicker to notice a look of fear on someone’s face than other emotions. They say a primitive part of the brain called the amygdala intercepts and reacts to fearful expressions before they reach other parts of the brain. They suspect that quickly interpreting the look on your friend’s face when a lion was approaching had considerable survival value. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.