Oxytocin affects species-specific social and reproductive behaviors (for an overview, see Heinrichs and Domes, 2008, Heinrichs et al, 2009). Warm social contact with the partner, sexual arousal, orgasm, and attachment as well as regulation of parturition and lactation have been related to oxytocin actions in women. Oxytocin interacts with the HPA axis and has stress-reducing effects in both men and women: During laboratory stress, oxytocin was found to diminish cortisol responses, which is most likely due to a central inhibition of the HPA axis, involving reduced amygdala reactivity.
In men, vasopressin (see below) may be the analogue of oxytocin. Still, while central oxytocin appears to have anxiolytic effects, central AVP rather acts as an anxiogenic.
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