A new study suggests that a hormone called oxytocin may help explain the benefits of social contact between parents and their children help explain the benefits of social contact between parents and their children.
Researchers from the University of York and the University of Liverpool studied the effects of oxytocin on the brains of children who had experienced social contact with their parents. The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, found that oxytocin decreased activity in the amygdala, a brain region involved in emotional processing and anxiety. The amygdala plays a key role in stress and anxiety.
The researchers also found that oxytocin was also linked to a decrease in the activity of the insula, a part of the brain associated with social cognition and emotion regulation.
“These results suggest that oxytocin is an important factor in the brain’s response to social contact,” said Dr. James Wilson, a neuroscientist from the University of York’s Department of Psychology, in a press release. “We’re not sure yet if oxytocin is the key factor in all social interactions, but we are suggesting it may be.”
The researchers say that the findings may be of great interest to researchers working to find new treatments for mental health issues.
“Our findings may help explain why people with mental health problems are often reluctant to get involved in social situations, especially when they’re with their parents,” said Dr. Tania Singer, from the University of Liverpool’s Department of Psychology. “We know that oxytocin plays a key role in human social interactions and that oxytocin is released in response to social contact.”