It looks like the moments that make our toes curl could also open the door to the spirit world, a recent study has shown.
A study from Duke University’s Interdisciplinary and Behavioral Research Center tested a group of men with oxytocin and another with placebo to determine just where the “love hormone” can take the mind. Previous studies show the hormone increases uterine motility (i.e., childbirth) and social bonding. After a week of the taking the hormone, the oxytocin group discovered a “greater sense of spirituality” and an understanding of life and its purpose. Many of the participants weren’t interested in faith or religion beforehand. In other words, a little loving goes a long way, even to church.
“Spirituality and meditation have each been linked to health and well-being in previous research,” social psychologist Patty Van Cappellen. “We were interested in understanding biological factors that may enhance those spiritual experiences. Oxytocin appears to be part of the way our bodies support spiritual beliefs.”
The idea of spirituality is broad, which Van Cappellen reminded participants and researchers. “Spirituality is complex and affected by many factors,” Van Cappellen explained. “However, oxytocin does seem to affect how we perceive the world and what we believe.”
Study subjects also discussed their thoughts on guided meditation. The men who took oxytocin said they experienced positive emotions like love, awe, serenity and hope in the exercise. Those who have the gene CD38, that controls the release of oxytocin to the brain, had a stronger understanding of both meditation and spirituality.
Oxytocin’s effects on women haven’t been studied as of yet.