Ever hear of the ‘mama bear’ hormone? by UC Science Today


Oxytocin is most commonly called the “love” hormone, but it has also been referred to as the “mama bear” hormone. Jennifer Mitchel, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco, describes why.

“I love my baby, I love my baby so much, that if you get anywhere close to my baby, I will rip you to shreds. So when we administer oxytocin to our populations, we are trying to keep these darker behaviors in mind as well.”

In a new study Mitchell is also testing oxytocin as a therapy for military personnel who suffer from PTSD and alcohol abuse. She says it is an effective way to keep stress and anxiety in check.

“Oxytocin can make one feel more pair-bonded, it is important for maternal attachment, for breastfeeding, for child birth, perhaps falling in love or those feelings associated with falling in love, but it also contributes to sort of non-group behavior. Believing there is an enemy or feeling that you have to protect yourself against others.”

But so far – Mitchell says – she hasn’t seen any signs of “mama bear”- type behavior in her study group.