MIAMI (AFP) – The love hormone, known formally as Oxytocin, may have another unexpected effect.
When tested on intoxicated lab rats, it helped them act as if they were sober, international researchers said Monday.
The tests have only been done in lab rats so far, but those injected with oxytocin and fed alcohol seemed able to overcome the failures in motor coordination that the drunken rats suffered.
A lab video posted online showed an inebriated rat stumbling to the corner of its cage and staying there, while on either side, a rat that was not given alcohol frolicked eagerly and a rat that was given alcohol and oxytocin darted around its enclosure with similar speed and energy.
“In the rat equivalent of a sobriety test, the rats given alcohol and oxytocin passed with flying colours, while those given alcohol without oxytocin were seriously impaired,” said lead author Michael Bowen of the University of Sydney.
“Alcohol impairs your coordination by inhibiting the activity of brain regions that provide fine motor control. Oxytocin prevents this effect to the point where we can’t tell from their behaviour that the rats are actually drunk. It’s a truly remarkable effect,” Bowen said.
Oxytocin is known for its role in promoting bonding and sexual attraction. It is often administered to pregnant women to boost contractions before childbirth.
“The first step will be to ensure we have a method of drug delivery for humans that allows sufficient amounts of oxytocin to reach the brain.
“If we can do that, we suspect that oxytocin could also leave speech and cognition much less impaired after relatively high levels of alcohol consumption,” Bowen said.
Getting a dose of oxytocin would not help get the alcohol out of your bloodstream any faster, researchers cautioned.