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Oxytocin: The Trust Molecule

Are you in the dog house because you betrayed your loved ones? If only there's a magical neurochemical that you can give them to restore your trust ...

Wait, there may actually be one:

Participants who received oxytocin, however, continued to invest at similar rates regardless of whether or not their trusting behavior had been taken advantage of. These behavioral group differences were accompanied by differences in neural responses, as participants in the oxytocin group showed decreases in responses in the amygdala and caudate nucleus.

The amygdala is a region of the brain involved in emotion and fear learning, and is rich in oxytocin receptors, whereas the caudate nucleus has been previously linked to reward-related responses and learning to trust .

Thus, the authors hypothesized that oxytocin decreases both fear mechanisms associated with a potential aversion of betrayals (via the amygdala) and our reliance on positive feedback that can influence future decisions (via the caudate). This in turn facilitates the expression of trust even after breaches of trust have occurred.

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