Oxytocin is a hormone which acts mainly as a neuromodulator* in the brain. It evokes feelings of wellbeing, reduces anxiety and promotes tranquillity and a sense of security. This is the reason why oxytocin is believed to play an important role in the inhibition of areas of the brain associated with controlling behaviour e.g. fear and anxiety, stress reduction etc. It is believed that the fear response is reduced because oxytocin inhibits the amygdala, the ancient reptile brain, which is responsible for survival responses like fear.
Oxytocin reduces anxiety, lowers blood pressure, cortisol levels and mitigates pain and fear. It also promotes growth. Some experiments have shown that when oxytocin levels are raised wounds heal more quickly.
The production of oxytocin is also stimulated by soft gentle touch, but not only touch. Heat, light pressure, caresses, eating food (particularly fatty foods, chocolate and peppers), pleasant, familiar aromas, calming sounds and lighting also stimulate oxytocin production.
TTouch ticks a number of these boxes. The light touch used for bodywork, TTouches like Noah’s March which are like gentle caresses, the light pressure usedsfor the TTouches and also the body wraps fulfil these prerequisites. We must not forget that when we are doing TTouch work our aim is also to create a calm, relaxing space.
Once the hormone has been produced it lingers. It does not disappear instantly when the stimulus is removed. For this reason it is believed that doing TTouches or putting on a body wrap before going out would not contribute to separation anxiety. Quite the contrary! Oxytocin is also known as the confidence hormone. In human couples it create the environment in the relationship which allows both partners to trust each other and, as we know, trust is the basis of any stable relationship and the cement which binds social groups together. New parents also produce oxytocin and thus the bond is strengthened both between them as well as the parent/child bond. This same mechanism is at work in the relationship b etgween humans and animals in their care.
In view of this I believe that in cases of separation anxiety when TTouch bodywork is done and/or wraps are put on before the animal is left alone, the stress which the animal may feel when left alone may be alleviated because the fear response is mitigated and cortisol production is inhibited etc.
For those who have attended a course or webinar on zoopharmacognosy it is worth pointing out that aromas also stimulate the production of oxytocin. This means that offering oils anad other substances in zoopharmacognosy may be very beneficial. It is interesting to point out that the magnocellular neurons which produce oxytocin are situated close to those that produce vasopressin, one of the key substances involved in reactive behaviours.
I would therefore conclude that both TTouch and zoopharmacognosy may be very useful tool to combat stress, anxiety, fear and other negative emotions.
*Neuromodulators are substances that do not directly activate ion-channel receptors but that, acting together with neurotransmitters, enhance the excitatory or inhibitory responses of the receptors.