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July 6, 2006
An Oxytocin - Not Oil - Shortage
We don't face an oil shortage as much as an oxytocin shortage says NYTimes columnist David Brooks. I couldn't agree more. In a brilliant op-ed piece on July 2 titled "Of Human Bonding" he explains.
"If I had $37 billion to give to charity, I’d give some of it to a foundation that would invent an Oxytocin Meter. That way we could predict who is headed for success and who for failure. We could figure out which organizations are thriving and which are sick.
Oxytocin is a hormone that helps mammals bond. Female rats injected with oxytocin nurture newborns placed in their cages, which they otherwise would attack. Prairie voles with oxytocin receptors form lifelong monogamous bonds, whereas other varieties of voles without the receptors mate promiscuously.
In humans, oxytocin levels rise during childbirth, breast feeding and sex. Humans with higher oxytocin levels are more likely to trust other people. They are more resistant to stress and social phobias. Humans seem, to experience delicious oxytocin floods in the brain after being with someone they love. It’s no wonder neuroscientists – displaying the branding genius for which they are famous – have nicknamed oxytocin “the affiliative neuropeptide.”
I figure if we can hang Oxytocin Meters around people’s necks, we can tell who is involved in healthy relationships and who isn’t. If you walked into an office where nobody is having an oxytocin moment, then you’d know you’re in a dysfunctional organization and it’s time to get out of there.....
If I had $37 billion, I would focus it on the crucial node where attachment skills are formed: the parental relationship during the first few years of life. I’d invest much of it with organizations, like Circles of Security, that help at-risk mothers and fathers develop secure bonds with their own infants, instead of just replicating the behaviors of their parents. I’d focus on the real resource crisis that affects the country. It’s not the oil shortage. It’s the oxytocin shortage."
If anyone out there is interested in donating to make Brooks' dream of Oxytocin Meters a reality then they should contact Paul Zak at the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies(CNS). I am on the advisory board of the CNS and am working with them to raise $5 million to endow the center so that his work on the neurobiology of trust can continue to grow. Trust me, understanding the neurobiology of trust could be one of the greatest breakthroughs for society in the 21st century. If you have a few million to spare, take a look at this research.
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