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Of Human Bonding

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 would otherwise 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."

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