Viagra Boosts Release of "Love Hormone"
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have shown that the blue pills also increases release of a key reproductive hormone.
The team reports that sildenafil increases the amount of oxytocin released by stimulation of the posterior pituitary gland, a small structure directly underneath the brain that regulates hormone levels in response to neural signals.
The finding is the first indication of a chemical mechanism through which erectile dysfunction drugs like Viagra may have physical effects besides increasing blood flow to sexual organs, says study author Meyer Jackson, a physiology professor at the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health.
Sometimes called the "love hormone" or "cuddle chemical," oxytocin plays several important roles in social interactions and reproduction. It is also released during orgasm and has been linked to sexual arousal.
In the study, the scientists measured oxytocin released from rat pituitaries in response to neural stimulation. When the pituitaries were treated with sildenafil, they responded to the stimulation by releasing three times as much oxytocin as they did without the drug. Importantly, the drug had little if any effect on hormone release in the absence of stimulation.
"Erectile dysfunction drugs do not induce erections spontaneously, they enhance the response to sexual stimulation. The same thing is happening in the posterior pituitary - Viagra will not induce the release of oxytocin on its own, but it will enhance the amount of release you get in response to electrical stimulation," Jackson says.
Though he doesn't think his findings raise any significant safety issues related to Viagra use, he does think it provides strong foundation for studies of additional effects and new potential uses.
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