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Virtually all vertebrates have an Oxytocin like nonapeptide hormone that supports reproductive functions in a vasopressin-like nonapeptide hormone involved in water regulation. The two genes are always located close to each other (less than fifteen thousand DNA bases apart on the same chromosome and are transcribed in opposite directions). It is thought that two genes resulted from a gene duplication event; the ancestral gene is estimated to be about 500 million years old and is found in cyclosomes.

Synthetic Oxytocin is sometimes referred to under its brand/trade names of Picotin and Syntocinon. Because Oxytocin is temperature sensitive, it should be stored at or near a temperature of 35 degrees Celsius. Failing to do so may cause it to spoil.

Research with rodents and non human primates have shown that Oxytocin plays an important role in such behaviors as peer bond formation, maternal behavior, sexual behavior, stress regulation, and separation anxiety.

Oxytocin has also been found to enable social memory in rodents – that is the ability to recognize a novel rodent over time. In normal mice, this social memory is enhanced by low doses of Oxytocin, but is impaired if the mice is given agents that block the Oxytocin receptor. In addition, mice that have been genetically manipulated so that Oxytocin is no longer present in their system can no longer recognize previously encountered mice. If these same genetically modified mice are given Oxytocin before meeting a new mouse, however, they gain the ability to acquire such social memories.

Psychological studies have suggested that Oxytocin may be involved in human social behaviors in cognition. For example, sytnthetic Oxytocin administerd nasally has been found to envoke trust in the context of making investment decisions, and to regulate how the brain responds to fearful stimuli.

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Last updated October 2013

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