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things that just are

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Inhale Deeply

From the WSJ Morning Brief:
A Swiss-led research team has produced a potion that, when sniffed, makes people more likely to give their cash to someone to look after, the scientific journal Nature reports. "The team tested their creation on volunteers playing an investment game for real money," Nature says. "When they inhaled the nasal spray, investors were more likely to hand over money to a trustee, knowing that, although they could make a hefty profit, they could also lose everything if the trustee decided not to give any of the money back." The potion's key ingredient is oxytocin, a chemical that is produced naturally in the brain. The theory is that people only decide to trust each other -- when forming a sexual or business relationship, for example -- when the brain's oxytocin production is boosted.

Oxytocin production is triggered by a range of stimuli, including sex and breastfeeding, and it is known to be important in the formation of social ties, such as mating pairs and parent-offspring bonds. Experts think that oxytocin exerts its range of effects by boosting some social behaviors -- it may encourage animals or people to overcome their natural wariness when faced with a risky situation.


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