Understanding more about the action of the hormone oxytocin
Like a musician that gets recognised for their one-hit-wonder but wants you to appreciate their much more meaningful back-catalogue, oxytocin is known for popping up during moments of intimate enjoyment but actually influences physiological processes behind everything from childbirth to social interaction. A study to better understand the hormone’s production and release examined tissue from the hypothalamus brain region of mice (pictured, with oxytocin-producing neurons coloured). Oxytocin is released directly into the brain through the dendrites – the cells’ long tendrils – when calcium is absorbed. The study showed this uptake is dictated by physical properties of the liquid around the cells, and that it was possible to activate receptors within the dendrites to boost calcium uptake regardless of the surrounding environment. Oxytocin-based treatments often struggle to reach the brain, so this finding could point to new approaches that improve efficacy, and help many mental health conditions.
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