Oxytocin, a hypothalamic nonapeptide, is linked to increased levels of social interaction, well-being and anti-stress effects.
The effects of oxytocin that is released by sensory stimulation during different kinds of interactive behaviors are often underestimated or even forgotten. In fact, many of the positive effects caused during interaction, such a wellbeing, stress reduction and even health promotion, are indeed linked to oxytocin released in response to activation of various types of sensory nerves.
This has been spoken about in my workshops and we now use touch and affection to raise the level in oxytocin for participants
Oxytocin is released in response to activation of sensory nerves during labor, breastfeeding and sexual activity. In addition oxytocin is released in response to low intensity stimulation of the skin, e.g., in response to touch, stroking, warm temperature, etc. Consequently oxytocin is not only released during interaction between mothers and infants, but also during positive interaction between adults or between humans and animals. Finally oxytocin is also released in response to suckling and food intake. Oxytocin released in the brain in response to sensory stimulation as a consequence of these types of interactive behaviors, contributes to every day wellbeing and ability to handle stress. Food intake or sex may be used or even abused to achieve oxytocin-linked wellbeing and stress relief to compensate for lack of good relationships or when the levels of anxiety are high. The present review article will summarize the role played by oxytocin released by sensory (in particular somatosensory) stimulation, during various kinds of interactive behaviors. Also the fact that the anti-stress effects of oxytocin are particularly strong when oxytocin is released in response to “low intensity” stimulation of the skin will be highlighted.
Human individuals express different behaviors in order to feel well and to avoid tension and stress. Some of these behaviors are maladaptive and could be regarded as expressions of abuse, whereas others clearly represent healthy and natural ways of achieving every day wellbeing and relief from stress. A common denominator of several of the natural “soothing mechanisms” is that they often involve some type of sensory stimulation of skin or mucosa. Oxytocin, released within the brain from oxytocinergic nerves emanating from the paraventricular nucleus (PVN) in response to such sensory stimuli, is of crucial importance for the positive effects linked to these self-soothing behaviors (Buijs, 1983; Buijs et al., 1983; Sofroniew, 1983; Uvnäs-Moberg, 1998).
Participants describe how the feel much more connected and relaxed once the have connected with others through grooming.