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  1. Larry J. Young

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0628

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Young, L. J. 2010. Oxytocin. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1.

Author Information

  1. Emory University School of Medicine

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


Oxytocin is a nonapeptide hormone and neuromodulator with a range of physiological and psychological effects related to reproduction, social cognition, and behavior (Burbach et al., 2006). Oxytocin is produced predominantly in the hypothalamus and is projected to the posterior pituitary for release into circulation, where it acts as a hormone. Oxytocin released into circulation plays important roles in regulating both lactation and the progression of labor. Oxytocin is the most uterotonic substance known, and pitocin, a synthetic oxytocin, is widely used by physicians to stimulate the progression of labor. Nipple stimulation during nursing stimulates synchronous firing of hypothalamic neurons via a reflex arch, resulting in the pulsatile release of oxytocin from the mother's pituitary gland. This elevation in oxytocin stimulates milk ejection by causing myoepithelial cells in the mammary gland to contract.


  • sexual behavior;
  • anxiety;
  • maternal behavior;
  • social attachment;
  • autism