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How the 'cuddle' hormone makes you feel less stressed

Narrator:       This is Science Today. For the first time, a study is suggesting that a tendency to be more empathic and reactive to stress may be influenced by a single gene, which we may or may not have inherited from our parents. Laura Saslow, a psychology graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, explains that they found a gene receptor that activates oxytocin, a hormone that is secreted into the bloodstream and the brain, and is known for promoting bonding, romantic love and other functions.

Saslow:           The hormone is the key and the receptor is the lock and so this is a gene for the lock for oxytocin. You inherit it and you can't do anything about it, but oxytocin itself is very flexible. You can move around how much oxytocin you have in your body.

Narrator:       Saslow says if you want to feel more empathic and less stressed, you can raise your oxytocin levels by simply getting a hug - that's why it's often called the ‘cuddle' or ‘love' hormone. 

Saslow:           Maybe it's one of the reasons that owning a pet is so good for your health, because you're petting your pet, you know? You're snuggling with your pet. That's going to increase oxytocin. That's going to make you less stressed and then probably healthier.

Narrator:       For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.