Unraveling oxytocin – is it nature’s medicine?

This 2020 review attempted to consolidate thousands of research papers on oxytocin:

“Chemical properties of oxytocin make this molecule difficult to work with and to measure. Effects of oxytocin are context-dependent, sexually dimorphic, and altered by experience. Its relationship to a related hormone, vasopressin, have created challenges for its use as a therapeutic drug.

Widely used medical interventions i.e.:

  • Exogenous oxytocin, such as Pitocin given to facilitate labor;
  • Opioid medications that block the oxytocin system; or
  • Cesarean sections that alter exposure to endogenous oxytocin:

have lasting consequences for the offspring and/or mother.

Such exposures hold the potential to have epigenetic effects on the oxytocin systems, including changes in DNA methylation. These changes in turn would have lasting effects on the expression of receptors for oxytocin, leaving individuals differentially able to respond to oxytocin and also possibly to the effects of vasopressin.

Regions with especially high levels of OXTR [oxytocin receptor gene] are:

  • Various parts of the amygdala;
  • Bed nucleus of the stria terminalis;
  • Nucleus accumbens;
  • Brainstem source nuclei for the autonomic nervous system;
  • Systems that regulate the HPA axis; as well as
  • Brainstem tissues involved in pain and social attention.

Oxytocin protects neural cells against hypoxic-ischemic conditions by:

  • Preserving mitochondrial function;
  • Reducing oxidative stress; and
  • Decreasing a chromatin protein that is released during inflammation;

which can activate microglia through the receptor for advanced glycation end products (RAGE). RAGE acts as an oxytocin-binding protein facilitating the transport of oxytocin across the blood-brain barrier and through other tissues.

Directionality of this transport is 5–10 times higher from the blood to the brain, in comparison with brain to blood transport. Individual differences in RAGE could help to predict cellular access to oxytocin and might also facilitate access to oxytocin under conditions of stress or illness.

Oxytocin and vasopressin and their receptors are genetically variable, epigenetically regulated, and sensitive to stressors and diet across the lifespan. As one example, salt releases vasopressin and also oxytocin.

Nicotine is a potent regulator of vasopressin. Smoking, including prenatal exposure of a fetus, holds the potential to adjust this system with effects that likely differ between males and females and that may be transgenerational.

Relative concentrations of endogenous oxytocin and vasopressin in plasma were associated with:

These studies support the usefulness of measurements of both oxytocin and vasopressin but leave many empirical questions unresolved.

The vast majority of oxytocin in biosamples evades detection using conventional approaches to measurement.”

https://pharmrev.aspetjournals.org/content/pharmrev/72/4/829.full.pdf “Is Oxytocin Nature’s Medicine?”


I appreciate attempts to ferret out worthwhile research from countless poorly performed studies, research that wasted resources, and research that actually detracted from science.

Although these reviewers didn’t provide concrete answers to many questions, they did point the way toward promising research areas, such as:

  • Improved approaches to oxytocin measurements;
  • Prenatal epigenetic experience associations with oxytocin and OXTR; and
  • Possible transgenerational transmission of these prenatal epigenetic experiences.

Part 3 of Do broccoli sprouts treat migraines?

This 2019 Swedish review subject was the role of inflammation in migraines:

“In this article, we argue that inflammation could have an important role in migraine chronification through a mechanism termed neurogenic neuroinflammation, a phenomenon whereby activation of trigeminal sensory pathways leads to an orchestrated inflammatory response involving immune cells, vascular cells and neurons.

No studies to date have directly linked hypothalamic neuroinflammation with migraine, and we therefore looked to other studies. Overactivity of the NF-κB–IKKβ signalling pathway has been shown to be a critical modulator of hypothalamic inflammation.

We do not believe that CNS inflammation is involved in the triggering of migraine attacks, as BBB alterations, glial cell activation and leukocyte infiltration have not been observed in individuals with this condition. Peripheral sensitization is an important factor in migraine chronification, as opposed to migraine triggering.”

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41582-019-0216-y “Does inflammation have a role in migraine?” (not freely available)

See Reevaluate findings in another paradigm for other views of hypothalamic inflammation.


I came across this review through its citation in the 2020 medical paper The fifth cranial nerve in headaches with the same lead author:

“Reduced serotonergic transmission seems to be involved in medication overuse headache development, possibly through a facilitation of the sensitization process via a maladaptive plasticity. In humans, common neurophysiological investigation of central sensitization shows an abnormal cortical response to repetitive sensory stimuli, with an increased response amplitude after low numbers of stimuli and a lacking habituation, suggesting an altered plasticity.

Neurons, under repetitive, persistent nociceptive, become sensitized and produce exaggerated and prolonged responses to lower threshold stimuli. Over time, a neuroplastic adaptation in medullary and cortical pain areas causes a shift in the pain modulatory system creating a new threshold and favouring a net pain facilitation rather than pain alleviation.

Targets are almost exclusively found in the nerves of trigeminal ganglion; the hub of the fifth cranial nerve. Although we believe that the headache-trigger most likely have the origin in the CNS, this review underscores the importance of trigeminal neurons in the perception of pain.”

This second paper listed various treatments of symptoms. Remarkable for no focus on treatments of causes.


Per Parts 1 and 2, I rarely get headaches anymore, much less migraines. 23 weeks of eating a clinically relevant amount of broccoli sprouts every day resolved causes for me. I didn’t appreciate how migraines and many other things changed until awakening during Week 9.

Sleep

If you can stand the woo of two Californians trying to outwoo each other, listen to these five podcasts with a sleep scientist.

https://peterattiamd.com/matthewwalker1/

“Ambien, sedation, hypnotives, are not sleep.

Sleep is a life support system. It’s the Swiss army knife of health.

Lack of sleep is like a broken water pipe in your home that leaks down into every nook and cranny of your physiology.

Sleep research is not being transmitted to clinical practice.”


I live on the US East Coast. Hyperbole in normal conversations outside of urban centers is an exception.

It’s different on the West Coast. For example:

  • Interviewer assertions regarding heart rate variability should be compared and contrasted with Dead physiological science zombified by psychological research evidence that:

    “A broad base of further evidence was amassed within human cardiac, circulatory, and autonomic physiology such that the hypotheses do not work as described.”

  • Interviewer favorable comments for MDMA (Ecstasy) “to deal with issues of underlying trauma, anxiety, and depression.”

Forcing people to learn helplessness

Learned helplessness is a proven animal model. Its reliably-created phenotype is often the result of applying chronic unpredictable stress.

As we’re finding out worldwide, forcing humans to learn helplessness works in much the same way, with governments imposing what amounts to martial law. Never mind that related phenotypes and symptoms include:

  • “Social defeat
  • Social avoidance behavior
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Anhedonia
  • Increased hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA)-axis sensitivity
  • Visceral hypersensitivity” [1]

Helplessness is both a learned behavior and a cumulative set of experiences. Animal models demonstrate that these phenotypes usually continue on throughout the subjects’ entire lifespans.

Will the problems caused in humans by humans be treated by removing the causes? Or will the responses be approaches such as drugs to treat the symptoms?


A major difference between our current situation and the situation depicted below is that during communism, most people didn’t really trust or believe what the authorities, newspapers, television, and radio said:

Image from Prague’s Memorial to the Victims of Communism


[1] 2014 GABAB(1) receptor subunit isoforms differentially regulate stress resilience curated in If research provides evidence for the causes of stress-related disorders, why only focus on treating the symptoms?

Flatten the Panic Curve April 13-17, 2020

To better understand our internal origins of panic, here’s Dr. Arthur Janov’s interpretation of a 2013 Iowa study Fear and panic in humans with bilateral amygdala damage (not freely available):

“Justin Feinstein did a study with those who had a damaged amygdala, the hub of the emotional system. They did not have normal fear responses. But if oxygen supplies were lowered and carbon dioxide supplies were increased, mimicking suffocation (increasing acidity of the blood) there were panic attacks.

Where in the world did those attacks come from? Certainly not from the usual emotional structures.

They believe it includes the brainstem! Because the lowering of oxygen supplies and adding carbon dioxide provoked the lower structures to sense the danger and reacted appropriately.

Very much like what happens to a fetus when the mother smokes during pregnancy and produces those same effects.”


Since those of us who chronically experience panic aren’t going into therapy over this weekend, what else can we do?

1. Stop looking at the John Hopkins Panic map.

2. Search out realistic news such as: “Change in [New York state] ICU admissions is actually a negative number for the first time since we started this intense journey.”

3. Stop clicking sensational headline links.

4. Question your information, and investigate multiple views. Trust has been lost:

  • Dr. Scott Jensen, a Minnesota physician for 35 years and state senator, on the inappropriate CDC / WHO guidelines for reporting COVID-19 deaths:

    “It’s ridiculous. The determination of cause of death is a big deal. The idea that we’re going to allow people to massage and game the numbers is a real issue because we’re going to undermine trust.

    I would never put down influenza as the cause of death. Yet that’s what we’re being asked to do here.”

  • The same day, Dr. Fauci arrogantly grouped physicians in with conspiracy theorists if they didn’t conform to these bordering-on-fraudulent CDC / WHO guidelines:

    “Every time we have a crisis of any sort, there’s always this popping-up of conspiracy theories. I think the deaths that we’re seeing are coronavirus deaths, and the other deaths are not being counted as coronavirus deaths.”

    Telling people to trust him – a bureaucrat who hasn’t been in active practice for over three decades – because he had far superior medical judgment than did practicing doctors who for years continuously see patients?

  • Consider the evidence.
  • Don’t accept lies you feel uneasy about. Trust your internal BS detector.

Which herd will you choose to belong to?

https://nypost.com/video/bison-stampede-terrorizes-family-trapped-in-car/

or

Prenatal programming of human HPA axis development

This 2017 UC Irvine human review subject provided details of how fetal hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal components and systems develop, and how they are epigenetically changed by the mother’s environment:

“The developmental origins of disease or fetal programming model predicts that intrauterine exposures have life-long consequences for physical and psychological health. Prenatal programming of the fetal hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is proposed as a primary mechanism by which early experiences are linked to later disease risk.

Development of the fetal HPA axis is determined by an intricately timed cascade of endocrine events during gestation and is regulated by an integrated maternal-placental-fetal steroidogenic unit. Mechanisms by which stress-induced elevations in hormones of maternal, fetal, or placental origin influence the structure and function of the emerging fetal HPA axis are discussed.

Human gestational physiology and fetal HPA axis development differ even from that of closely related nonhuman primates, thereby limiting the generalizability of animal models. This review will focus solely on studies of prenatal stress and fetal HPA axis development in humans.”


1. Every time I read a prenatal study I’m in awe of all that has to go right – and at the appropriate times and sequences – for a fetus to be undamaged. Add in what needs to happen at birth, during infancy, and throughout early childhood, and it seems impossible for any human to escape epigenetic damage.

2. The reviewers referenced animal studies and human research performed with postnatal subjects, despite the disclaimer:

This review will focus solely on studies of prenatal stress and fetal HPA axis development in humans.”

This led to blurring of what had been studied or not with human fetuses regarding the subject.

3. These reviewers uncritically listed many dubious human studies that had both stated and undisclosed severe limitations on their findings. Other reviewers offer informed analysis of cited studies, as Sex-specific impacts of childhood trauma summarized with cortisol:

“Findings are dependent upon variance in extenuating factors, including but not limited to, different measurements of:

  • early adversity,
  • age of onset,
  • basal cortisol levels, as well as
  • trauma forms and subtypes, and
  • presence and severity of psychopathology symptomology.”

4. The paper would have been better had it stayed on topic with its title “Developmental origins of the human hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.” Let other reviews cover animals, post-natal humans, and questionable evidence.

5. I asked the reviewers to provide a searchable file to facilitate using their work as a reference.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/318469661_Developmental_origins_of_the_human_hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal_axis “Developmental origins of the human hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis” (registration required)

How do memories transfer?

This 2018 Chinese study electronically modeled the brain’s circuits to evaluate memory transfer mechanisms:

“During non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM) sleep, thalamo-cortical spindles and hippocampal sharp wave-ripples have been implicated in declarative memory consolidation. Evidence suggests that long-term memory consolidation is coordinated by the generation of:

  • Hierarchically nested hippocampal ripples (100-250 Hz),
  • Thalamo-cortical spindles (7-15 Hz), and
  • Cortical slow oscillations (<1 Hz)

enabling memory transfer from the hippocampus to the cortex.

Consolidation has also been demonstrated in other brain tasks, such as:

  • In the acquisition of motor skills, where there is a shift from activity in prefrontal cortex to premotor, posterior parietal, and cerebellar structures; and
  • In the transfer of conscious to unconscious tasks, where activity in initial unskilled tasks and activity in skilled performance are located in different regions, the so-called ‘scaffolding-storage’ framework.

By separating a neural circuit into a feedforward chain of gating populations and a second chain coupled to the gating chain (graded chain), graded information (i.e. information encoded in firing rate amplitudes) may be faithfully propagated and processed as it flows through the circuit. The neural populations in the gating chain generate pulses, which push populations in the graded chain above threshold, thus allowing information to flow in the graded chain.

In this paper, we will describe how a set of previously learned synapses may in turn be copied to another module with a pulse-gated transmission paradigm that operates internally to the circuit and is independent of the learning process.”


The study had neither been peer-reviewed, nor were the mechanisms tested in living beings.

https://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2018/07/27/351114 “A Mechanism for Synaptic Copy between Neural Circuits”

A mid-year selection of epigenetic topics

Here are the most popular of the 65 posts I’ve made so far in 2018, starting from the earliest:

The pain societies instill into children

DNA methylation and childhood adversity

Epigenetic mechanisms of muscle memory

Sex-specific impacts of childhood trauma

Sleep and adult brain neurogenesis

This dietary supplement is better for depression symptoms than placebo

The epigenetic clock theory of aging

A flying human tethered to a monkey

Immune memory in the brain

The lack of oxygen’s epigenetic effects on a fetus

The lack of oxygen’s epigenetic effects on a fetus

This 2018 Loma Linda review subject was gestational hypoxia:

“Of all the stresses to which the fetus and newborn infant are subjected, perhaps the most important and clinically relevant is that of hypoxia. This review explores the impact of gestational hypoxia on maternal health and fetal development, and epigenetic mechanisms of developmental plasticity with emphasis on the uteroplacental circulation, heart development, cerebral circulation, pulmonary development, and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and adipose tissue.

An understanding of the specific hypoxia-induced environmental and epigenetic adaptations linked to specific organ systems will enhance the development of target-specific inhibition of DNA methylation, histone modifications, and noncoding RNAs that underlie hypoxia-induced phenotypic programming of disease vulnerability later in life.

A potential stumbling block to these efforts, however, relates to timing of the intervention. The greatest potential effect would be accomplished at the critical period in development for which the genomic plasticity is at its peak, thus ameliorating the influence of hypoxia or other stressors.

With future developments, it may even become possible to intervene before conception, before the genetic determinants of the risk of developing programmed disease are established.”

Table 3 “Antenatal hypoxia and developmental plasticity” column titles were Species | Offspring Phenotypes of Disorders and Diseases | Reference Nos.

Hypoxia phenotypes


This review was really an ebook, with 94 pages and 1,172 citations in the pdf file. As I did with Faith-tainted epigenetics, I read it with caution toward recognizing 1) the influence of the sponsor’s biases, 2) any directed narrative that ignored evidence contradicting the narrative, and 3) any storytelling.

Can you match the meaning of the review’s last sentence (“intervene before conception” quoted above) with the meaning of any sentence in its cited reference Developmental origins of noncommunicable disease: population and public health implications? I can’t.

One review topic that was misconstrued was transgenerational epigenetic inheritance of hypoxic effects. The “transgenerational” term was used inappropriately by several of the citations, and no cited study provided evidence for gestational hypoxic effects through the F3 great-grandchild generation.

One omitted topic was gestational hypoxic effects of caffeine. The first paper that came up for my PubMed search of “caffeine pregnancy hypoxia” was an outstanding 2017 Florida rodent review Long-term consequences of disrupting adenosine signaling during embryonic development that had this paragraph and figure:

“One substance that fetuses are frequently exposed to is caffeine, which is a non-selective adenosine receptor antagonist. We discovered that in utero alteration in adenosine action leads to adverse effects on embryonic and adult murine hearts. We find that cardiac A1ARs [a type of adenosine receptor] protect the embryo from in utero hypoxic stress, a condition that causes an increase in adenosine levels. 

After birth in mice, we observed that in utero caffeine exposure leads to abnormal cardiac function and morphology in adults, including an impaired response to β-adrenergic stimulation. Recently, we observed that in utero caffeine exposure induces transgenerational effects on cardiac morphology, function, and gene expression.”

The timing of in utero caffeine treatment leads to differences in adult cardiac function, gene expression, and phenotype. Exposure to caffeine from E6.5–9.5 leads the F1 generation to develop dilated cardiomyopathy with decrease % FS and increased Myh7 expression. In utero caffeine exposure from E10.5–13.5 leads to a hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in the F2 generation along with increased % FS and decreased Myh7 expression

Why was this review and its studies omitted? It was on target for both gestational hypoxia and transgenerational epigenetic inheritance of hypoxic effects!

It was alright to review smoking, cocaine, methamphetamine, etc., but the most prevalent drug addiction – caffeine – couldn’t be a review topic?


The Loma Linda review covered a lot, but I had a quick trigger due to the sponsor’s bias. I started to lose “faith” in the reviewers after reading the citation for the review’s last sentence that didn’t support the statement.

My “faith” disappeared after not understanding why a few topics were misconstrued and omitted. Why do researchers and sponsors ignore, misrepresent, and not continue experiments through the F3 generation to produce evidence for and against transgenerational epigenetic inheritance? Where was the will to follow evidence trails regardless of socially acceptable beverage norms?

The review acquired the taint of storytelling with the reviewers’ assertion:

“..timing of the intervention. The greatest potential effect would be accomplished at the critical period in development for which the genomic plasticity is at its peak, thus ameliorating the influence of hypoxia or other stressors.”

Contradictory evidence was in the omitted caffeine study’s graphic above which described two gestational critical periods where an “intervention” had opposite effects, all of which were harmful to the current fetus’ development and/or to following generations. Widening the PubMed link’s search parameters to “caffeine hypoxia” and “caffeine pregnancy” returned links to human early life studies that used caffeine in interventions, ignoring possible adverse effects on future generations.

This is my final curation of any paper sponsored by this institution.

https://www.physiology.org/doi/abs/10.1152/physrev.00043.2017 “Gestational Hypoxia and Developmental Plasticity” (not freely available) Thanks to coauthor Dr. Xiang-Qun Hu for providing a copy.

Ideaesthesia!

This 2018 UK review subject was colored-hearing experiences from music:

“Music-colour synaesthesia has a broad scope encompassing not only tone-colour synaesthesia elicited on hearing individual tones, but a complex and idiosyncratic mixture of phenomenological experiences often mediated by timbre, tempo, emotion and differing musical style.

The possession of synaesthesia or absolute pitch was shown to have very little effect on the actual colours chosen for each of the musical excerpts, but it might be reasonable to expect that music that elicits a strong emotional response may be more likely to induce synaesthesia than music that does not.

The examination of eight neuroimaging studies were found to be largely inconclusive in respect of confirming the perceptual nature of music-colour synaesthesia. Neither the hyperconnectivity nor the disinhibited feedback theory currently holds as a single categorical explanation for synaesthesia.

Theories promoting the notion of ‘ideaesthesia’ have highlighted the importance of the role of concept and meaning in the understanding of synaesthesia..and a replacement definition: Synaesthesia is a phenomenon in which a mental activation of a certain concept or idea is associated consistently with a certain perception-like experience.”

Much of the review was philosophizing and casting around for clues. The review cited interesting studies and reviews, including The Merit of Synesthesia for Consciousness Research.


One relevant element missed by the underlying research and the review was critical periods of human development. A cited reference in How brains mature during critical periods was Sensitive periods in human development: Evidence from musical training (not freely available) which illuminated some aspects of the research:

“In contrast to a critical period, where a function cannot be acquired outside the specific developmental window, a sensitive period denotes a time where sensory experience has a relatively greater influence on behavioral and cortical development. Sensitive periods may also be times when exposure to specific stimuli stimulates plasticity, enhancing changes at the neuronal and behavioral levels.

The developmental window for absolute pitch may be more similar to a critical than a sensitive period.

The auditory cortex appears to have an unusually long period of developmental plasticity compared with other sensory systems; changes in its cellular organization and connectivity continue into late childhood.

The effects of musical training have been shown to impact auditory processing in the brainstem as well.”

Let’s say that a researcher wanted – as one cited study did – to examine absolute pitch, a rare trait, present in a subset of synesthetes – music-color, another rare trait. The study as designed would probably be underpowered due to an insufficient number of subjects, and it would subsequently find “very little effect.”

Let’s say another researcher focused on brain areas in the cerebrum, and like the eight cited studies, ignored the nuclei in the pons part of the brainstem which are the first brain recipients of sound and equilibrium information from the inner ear via the eighth cranial nerve. Like those studies, the researcher was also biased against including limbic brain areas that would indicate “a strong emotional response.” A study design that combined leaving out important brain-area participants in the synesthesia process with a few number of synesthetes would be unlikely to find conclusive evidence.

The reviewer viewed the lack of evidence from “eight neuroimaging studies” as indicating something about the “perceptual nature of music-colour synaesthesia.” An alternative view is that the “inconclusive” evidence had more to do with study designs that:

  • Had a small number of subjects;
  • Omitted brain areas relevant to the music-color synesthesia process;
  • Didn’t investigate likely music-color synesthesia development periods; and
  • Didn’t investigate associations of music-color synesthesia with epigenetic states.

Consider the magnitude of omitting the thalamus from synesthesia studies as one “perceptual nature” example. Just the background information of Thalamus gating and control of the limbic system and cerebrum is a form of memory indicated its relevance to synesthesia:

Despite the fundamental differences between visual, auditory and somatosensory signals, the basic layouts of the thalamocortical systems for each modality are quite similar.

For a given stimulus, the output neural response will not be static, but will depend on recent stimulus and response history.

Sensory signals en route to the cortex undergo profound signal transformations in the thalamus. A key thalamic transformation is sensory adaptation in which neural output adjusts to the statistics and dynamics of past stimuli.”

One of this study’s researchers described ways that an individual’s “stimulus and response history” became unconscious memories with the thalamus. Including the thalamus in synesthesia studies may also have findings that involve reliving or re-experiencing a memory, possibly an emotional memory.

In such future research, it could be a design element to ask synesthetes before and after the experiment to identify feelings and memories accompanying synesthesia experiences.

It shouldn’t be a requirement, however, to insist that memories and emotions be consciously identified in order to be included in the findings. Human studies, for example, Unconscious stimuli have a pervasive effect on our brain function and behavior have found:

“Pain responses can be shaped by learning that takes place outside conscious awareness.

Our results support the notion that nonconscious stimuli have a pervasive effect on human brain function and behavior and may affect learning of complex cognitive processes such as psychologically mediated analgesic and hyperalgesic responses.”


Does an orangy twilight of aging sunflowers help you feel?

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053810017305883 “Music-colour synaesthesia: Concept, context and qualia” (not freely available)