Join Here   |   Log In

Oxytocin Levels: Genetics of the Love Hormone

Key takeaways:
~ Oxytocin is a hormone produced in the brain and known for being the ‘love hormone’.
~ It is important in parent/child bonding and social involvement.
~ Genetic variants in the oxytocin receptor are linked to being more or less outgoing and social.

What is Oxytocin?

Oxytocin is a hormone produced in the hypothalamus of the brain. It’s a chemical messenger that has a lot of different results — from letting down milk in lactation to social bonding to appetite control.

During childbirth, oxytocin production is high to allow the cervix to relax and cause contractions. Interestingly, it also crosses the placenta and acts on the neurotransmitters of the baby, preparing him or her for birth. After birth, its involvement includes breastfeeding and milk letting down.

Outside of the physiological roles in childbirth, oxytocin acts in the brain as a neuropeptide and influences social activity and group bonding.

Oxytocin is also important in the synaptic plasticity in the neurons of the brain. It makes it vital for memory and learning.[ref]

How is oxytocin made?

Oxytocin synthesis occurs in a series of steps, starting with the OXT gene, which creates the inactive precursor needed for the hormone. The final activation happens because of catalyzation by the PAM enzyme, which needs vitamin C as a co-factor.

In general, genetic variants that decrease oxytocin production have been shown in psychological studies to decrease a person’s social sensitivity and empathy. Before all of you with high oxytocin levels start thinking, “oh no, poor thing” (ha!), there are some positive outcomes from not being as emotional. Genetic variants linked to lower empathy and less social sensitivity were found to be more resilient in the face of childhood maltreatment.[ref][ref]

A mother’s oxytocin levels also play a role in a baby’s response to early life stress, both before and after the baby is born. Yes, you can blame your mom if your brain isn’t wired the same way as others.[ref]

Interestingly, culture seems to play a role in the interpretation of the oxytocin gene variants. For example, one study found that Caucasian Americans with a genetic variant were likely to seek out emotional support, but Koreans were not.[ref]

Oxytocin Genotype Report:

Members: Log in to see your data below.
Not a member? Join here.
Why is this section is now only for members? Here’s why…

Member Content:

  Log In

Why join Genetic Lifehacks?

~ Membership supports Genetic Lifehack's goal of explaining the latest health and genetics research.
~ It gives you access to the full article, including the Genotype and Lifehacks sections.
~ You'll see your genetic data in the articles and reports.

Join Here



Looking to change your oxytocin levels? Here are several ways that research shows to alter your levels.

Behavior hacks:

Petting a dog increases both human and dog oxytocin levels.[ref] Another study showed that a dog gazing at you could increase oxytocin levels.[ref] Gives new meaning to “puppy-dog eyes”.

Creativity has links to oxytocin levels. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that intranasal oxytocin “reduced analytical reasoning and increased holistic processing, divergent thinking, and creative performance.”

Listening to music may increase oxytocin levels.[ref]

Loving-kindness meditation may increase your oxytocin levels.[ref]

Supplements and medications that impact oxytocin:

Member Content:

  Log In

Why join Genetic Lifehacks?

~ Membership supports Genetic Lifehack's goal of explaining the latest health and genetics research.
~ It gives you access to the full article, including the Genotype and Lifehacks sections.
~ You'll see your genetic data in the articles and reports.

Join Here

I’ll leave you with some cute puppies gazing at you…. awwww… More oxytocin.


Related Articles and Topics:

Estrogen: How it is made and how we get rid of it
Estrogen is usually thought of as the female hormone. While it is true women produce more estrogen than men, this applies to all of us. Estrogen – from how much is made to how it is broken down – is dependent on both genetics and lifestyle factors affecting both men and women.

How do your genes influence testosterone levels?
While bodybuilding and athletes may come to mind with the word testosterone, it is actually an important hormone for all men and women. This article investigates testosterone and the genetic variants that influence your natural “T” levels. It concludes with Lifehacks to boost low testosterone levels.

Anxiety: Genetics and personalized solutions
This article covers genetic variants related to anxiety disorders. Genetic variants combine with environmental factors (nutrition, sleep, relationships, etc.) when it comes to anxiety. There is not a single “anxiety gene”. Instead, there are many genes that can be involved – and many genetic pathways to target for solutions.

Why Circadian Rhythm Disruption Causes Depression
For some people, circadian disruption can be chronic – and at the heart of depression or mood disorders. Genetic variants play a role in this susceptibility. Fortunately, there are solutions that may help. ​



BRADLEY, BEKH, et al. “Association between Childhood Maltreatment and Adult Emotional Dysregulation in a Low-Income, Urban, African American Sample: Moderation by Oxytocin Receptor Gene.” Development and Psychopathology, vol. 23, no. 2, May 2011, pp. 439–52. PubMed Central,

Brody, Stuart. “High-Dose Ascorbic Acid Increases Intercourse Frequency and Improves Mood: A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial.” Biological Psychiatry, vol. 52, no. 4, Aug. 2002, pp. 371–74. PubMed,

Buffington, Shelly A., et al. “Microbial Reconstitution Reverses Maternal Diet-Induced Social and
synaptic Deficits in Offspring.” Cell, vol. 165, no. 7, June 2016, pp. 1762–75. PubMed Central,

Choi, Damee, et al. “Associations between the Oxytocin Receptor Gene (OXTR) Rs53576 Polymorphism and Emotional Processing of Social and Nonsocial Cues: An Event-Related Potential (ERP) Study.” Journal of Physiological Anthropology, vol. 36, Jan. 2017, p. 12. PubMed Central,

Creswell, Kasey G., et al. “OXTR Polymorphism Predicts Social Relationships through Its Effects on Social Temperament.” Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, vol. 10, no. 6, June 2015, pp. 869–76. PubMed Central,

Dadds, Mark R., et al. “Polymorphisms in the Oxytocin Receptor Gene Are Associated with the Development of Psychopathy.” Development and Psychopathology, vol. 26, no. 1, Feb. 2014, pp. 21–31. PubMed,

Dannlowski, Udo, et al. “Disadvantage of Social Sensitivity: Interaction of Oxytocin Receptor Genotype and Child Maltreatment on Brain Structure.” Biological Psychiatry, vol. 80, no. 5, Sept. 2016, pp. 398–405. PubMed,

De Dreu, Carsten K. W., et al. “Oxytonergic Circuitry Sustains and Enables Creative Cognition in Humans.” Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, vol. 9, no. 8, Aug. 2014, pp. 1159–65. PubMed Central,

Desbonnet, Lieve, et al. “Gut Microbiota Depletion from Early Adolescence in Mice: Implications for Brain and Behaviour.” Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, vol. 48, Aug. 2015, pp. 165–73. PubMed,

Giusti-Paiva, Alexandre, and Vinícus G. Dias Domingues. “Centrally Administered Ascorbic Acid Induces Antidiuresis, Natriuresis and Neurohypophyseal Hormone Release in Rats.” Neuro Endocrinology Letters, vol. 31, no. 1, 2010, pp. 87–91.

Kim, Heejung S., et al. “Culture, Distress, and Oxytocin Receptor Polymorphism (OXTR) Interact to Influence Emotional Support Seeking.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 107, no. 36, Sept. 2010, pp. 15717–21. PubMed Central,

Kirkpatrick, Matthew G., et al. “Plasma Oxytocin Concentrations Following MDMA or Intranasal Oxytocin in Humans.” Psychoneuroendocrinology, vol. 46, Aug. 2014, pp. 23–31. PubMed,

Li, Jingguang, et al. “Association of Oxytocin Receptor Gene (OXTR) Rs53576 Polymorphism with Sociality: A Meta-Analysis.” PLoS ONE, vol. 10, no. 6, June 2015, p. e0131820. PubMed Central,

Mascaro, Jennifer S., et al. “The Neural Mediators of Kindness-Based Meditation: A Theoretical Model.” Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 6, Feb. 2015, p. 109. PubMed Central,

Nagasawa, Miho, et al. “Dog’s Gaze at Its Owner Increases Owner’s Urinary Oxytocin during Social Interaction.” Hormones and Behavior, vol. 55, no. 3, Mar. 2009, pp. 434–41. PubMed,

Ooishi, Yuuki, et al. “Increase in Salivary Oxytocin and Decrease in Salivary Cortisol after Listening to Relaxing Slow-Tempo and Exciting Fast-Tempo Music.” PLoS ONE, vol. 12, no. 12, Dec. 2017, p. e0189075. PubMed Central,

Pekarek, Brandon T., et al. “Oxytocin and Sensory Network Plasticity.” Frontiers in Neuroscience, vol. 14, 2020. Frontiers,

Plevrakis, I., et al. “Oxytocin Biosynthesis in Serum-Free Cultures of Human Granulosa Cells.” The Journal of Endocrinology, vol. 124, no. 2, Feb. 1990, pp. R5-8. PubMed,

Poutahidis, Theofilos, et al. “Microbial Symbionts Accelerate Wound Healing via the Neuropeptide Hormone Oxytocin.” PLoS ONE, vol. 8, no. 10, Oct. 2013, p. e78898. PubMed Central,

Scheele, Dirk, et al. “Hormonal Contraceptives Suppress Oxytocin-Induced Brain Reward Responses to the Partner’s Face.” Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, vol. 11, no. 5, May 2016, pp. 767–74. PubMed Central,

Toepfer, Philipp, et al. “Oxytocin Pathways in the Intergenerational Transmission of Maternal Early Life Stress.” Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, vol. 73, Feb. 2017, pp. 293–308. PubMed Central,

Waller, Rebecca, et al. “An Oxytocin Receptor Polymorphism Predicts Amygdala Reactivity and Antisocial Behavior in Men.” Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, vol. 11, no. 8, Aug. 2016, pp. 1218–26. PubMed Central,

About the Author:
Debbie Moon is the founder of Genetic Lifehacks. Fascinated by the connections between genes, diet, and health, her goal is to help you understand how to apply genetics to your diet and lifestyle decisions. Debbie has a BS in engineering from Colorado School of Mines and an MSc in biological sciences from Clemson University. Debbie combines an engineering mindset with a biological systems approach to help you understand how genetic differences impact your optimal health.