Functions of Oxytocin

Oxytocin is a short peptide hormone that is composed of nine amino acids, it is produced in the hypothalamus and functions as a neurotransmitter in the brain. The hormone is widely known for its role in lactation and parturition and it is present in several extrahypothalmic areas apart from the neurohyophyseal system. The peptide is located in neurons that send projections to the brain areas, which have specific oxytocin binding sites. Oxytocin is released from its synpases, the process is calcium dependent, and it is a precursor to behavioral active neuropeptides. Research indicates that the ancient neuropeptides acts as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. The study show that oxytocin plays a crucial role in the expression of central functions such as sexual behavior, maternal behavior ,memory, tolerance , grooming , feeding , thermoregulation , cardiovascular regulation and learning. Unlike other common hormones, oxytocin is not produced in glandular cells but rather nerve cells.

The sensory nerves stimulates the hypothalamus to secrete the hormone, the electrical activity triggers the hormone to bind to neurophysin I an important precursor in the pituitary gland. The hormone is then released from the posterior lobe of the pituitary gland to the circulation system where it reaches the required destination, the process is referred to as neuroendocrine secretion. On the other hand, it may leave the hypothalamus thereafter it is distributed to spinal cord and other parts of the brain the attachment to specific receptors influences physiology and behavior. The hormone plays a crucial role in female production; it is released to the bloodstream because of increased cervical, uterine, and vaginal stimulation during childbirth. The hormone then helps in promoting contraction of the smooth muscle tissues in the uterus during and after labor, this promotes a rapid childbirth. In cases where the woman in labor has low levels of the hormone medical professional administer it intravenously to strengthen the contractions and induce labor.

After the child is born, the hormone is still produced and this is essential because it helps in preventing hemorrhage and aids in returning the uterus to its pre-gravid state. Another function of oxytocin is after childbirth is that it promotes milk let down in lactating mothers. In response to sound, sight and smell of the suckling infant the hormone causes the muscles surrounding the milk ducts and alveoli to expel milk in a process called let down reflex or Ferguson’s reflex. Once the child is born the hormone helps in encouraging mother to child bond, the hormone stimulates maternal instincts and nurturing abilities in a mother.

Recent studies indicate that FRAG 176-191 is vital in human sexual response behavior, plasma oxytocin increases rapidly at the time of orgasm. In both men and women the levels of the hormone rapidly increases and it is related to its function in the motility of the spermatozoa and ova transport. Moreover, the hormone is crucial in creating a bond between sexual mates and further studies on men in a monogamous relationship showed that when a spray of the hormone is given to them they increase the distance between them and an attractive female. This shows that the hormone is vital in increasing fidelity in men, moreover trust levels is largely related to oxytocin levels in the body. The hormone can be used in treating autisms affilliative and repetitive behaviors, injection of the hormone has showed to increase retention and effectiveness of speech in adults with autism.