Monday, December 12, 2005

Trust Me

From Science Daily (with original release here):
Trust Building Hormone Short-Circuits Fear in Humans

[snipped from news release]

A brain chemical recently found to boost trust appears to work by reducing activity and weakening connections in fear-processing circuitry, a brain imaging study at the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has discovered. Scans of the hormone oxytocin's effect on human brain function reveal that it quells the brain's fear hub, the amygdala, and its brainstem relay stations in response to fearful stimuli. The work at NIMH and a collaborating site in Germany suggests new approaches to treating diseases thought to involve amygdala dysfunction and social fear, such as social phobia, autism, and possibly schizophrenia, report Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, M.D., Ph.D., NIMH Genes Cognition and Psychosis Program, and colleagues, in the December 7, 2005 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience. "Studies in animals, pioneered by now NIMH director Dr. Thomas Insel, have shown that oxytocin plays a key role in complex emotional and social behaviors, such as attachment, social recognition and aggression," noted NIH Director Elias Zerhouni, M.D.. "Now, for the first time, we can literally see these same mechanisms at work in the human brain." ...

[Read Full Article]

I don't know what to make of this. Oxytocin certainly seems to be a workhorse in the body, especially in women -- natural Oxytocin influences activities related to birth and lactation (and it has even been linked to establishing maternal behavior). At least, according to this Bowen person at the Colorado State University. And some folks are advocating Oxytocin's role in maintaining relationships, calling it a hormone of love. That might lend some credence to the idea that this hormone can affect a person's trust level (willingness to trust someone, not the level of trustworthiness he inspires in others). I am certainly uncomfortable with scientists mucking about in this area. I guess you could say I don't trust them (heh). But think about it ... if chemists can synthesize a compound that inclines anyone who ingests it to be more trusting, then how long will it be before said compound is abused? I'm not typically prone to conspiracy theorizing, but imagine for just a moment, if you will, another five or so years down the road. Administering certain levels of Oxytocin to the general public has been approved and found to be "safe." Perhaps Oxytocin -- or a manufactured derivative -- will be added to a regularly consumed product, much like Flouride in toothpaste. Or it could be released into the air in confined spaces, such as cublicles and fast food restaurants (refer to the snif test in the news release). People feel OK. They trust the media and their elected officials. They don't question what is going on in the world. Goodness me. Could this already be happening? More about Oxytocin: Note: Oxytocin should not be confused with the unrelated drug OxyContin (a pain-killer).

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