I recently saw an update of two twins:  Brielle and Kyrie Jackson. Born 12 weeks premature, these two little girls were in separate incubators. Brielle began to have trouble breathing and started turning blue.

That is, until one nurse decided to put them together. Once together again, Kyrie reached over and hugged her sister. Brielle’s condition stabilized and the girls are now happy and healthy 17-year-olds!

Kyrie’s hug has been deemed “The Rescuing Hug” and many hospitals now have twins share incubators.

So what’s going on here?

I dug a little deeper and this is what I found.

The answer is the hormone called oxytocin. Oxytocin is also known by different names: “love hormone” and the “trust hormone”. It’s that warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you’re all snuggly with a loved one or a pet.

By Edgar181 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Oxytocin
is produced by the hypothalamus in the brain. The hypothalamus is the area in your brain responsible for controlling:

  • body temperature
  • sleep
  • attachment behavior
  • hunger
  • thirst

After production, oxytocin is stored and secreted by the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is responsible for secretion of hormones produced by the hypothalamus.

Why is oxytocin important? Earlier in June 2014, researchers found that when oxytocin is injected into an injured mouse, the wounds heal faster due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Oxytocin is also known to decrease stress and increase pain tolerance.

photo credit: Nils J. via photopin cc

The most interesting research I found is in regard to the use of oxytocin to treat depression. Oxytocin was given intranasally (via the nose) to depressed individuals. They reported feeling less fear and making more eye contact. The striking take away from this study was that subjects reported that they acted differently after taking oxytocin even though they didn’t feel any different.

photo credit: Kris Krug via photopin cc

How can you increase your levels of oxytocin? Any physical contact will do!

So get to it! Grab someone in a bear hug! Snuggle with your pet!



References:

  • LifeNews.com, (2014). Their “Rescuing Hug” Stunned the World, Now the Twins Are All Grown Up. [online] Available at: http://www.lifenews.com/2014/06/20/their-rescuing-hug-stunned-the-world-now-the-twins-are-all-grown-up/ [Accessed 30 Jun. 2014].
  • Pedersen, T. (2014). » Treating Depression with the Oxytocin, the Love Hormone – Psych Central News. [online] Psych Central.com. Available at: http://psychcentral.com/news/2012/02/20/treating-depression-with-the-oxytocin-the-love-hormone/35027.html [Accessed 30 Jun. 2014].
  • Sciencenews.org, (2014). Oxytocin stimulates repair of old mice’s muscles | Science News. [online] Available at: https://www.sciencenews.org/article/oxytocin-stimulates-repair-old-mice’s-muscles [Accessed 30 Jun. 2014].
  • Wikipedia, (2014). Oxytocin. [online] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxytocin [Accessed 30 Jun. 2014].