Wednesday, April 22, 2015

I Love to Gaze Into My Dogs’ Eyes, and Now Science Has Shown Me Why: The Oxytocin-Gaze Positive Loop

It was actually quite ingenious.  Japanese scientist Miho Nagasawa and his colleagues measured oxytocin concentration (the hormone secreted when Mom’s gaze into their babies’ eyes, often known as a “feel good hormone”) in the urine of 30 dogs, several domesticated wolves, and their owners.  They measured how long the owners gazed into the eyes of their pets and how long they touched them during a 30-minute period.  The researchers found that the oxytocin levels were significantly elevated for the owners and dogs that had longer gazes and touches. 

However, this was not true for the eye contact of the wolves.  This makes sense given that eye contact can be interpreted as a sign of aggression for the wolf. 

In part two of the experiment, the scientists nasally administered oxytocin to the dogs and found that the oxytocin increased the gazing behavior between the female dogs and their owners, which in turn increased the oxytocin levels in the owners.  It’s not clear why the nasal oxytocin only increased the gazing behavior for the female dogs—the researchers guess it has something to do with the importance of oxytocin levels when females bond with their offspring.

Click here to access the article.

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