Science Interviews

Interview

Sat, 8th Jul 2006

Science Update - Commitment Sprays and Children's Saliva.

Chelsea Wald and Bob Hirshon from AAAS, the science society

Part of the show Allergies, the Immune System and Parasites

 

Kat - now it's time to head Stateside for this week's Science Update, where Bob Hirshon and Chelsea Wald look at a nasal spray that could put and end to marital strife and how your child's drool could reveal its stress levels.

Bob - This week for the Naked Scientists we'll be exploring your emotions and how your body chemistry regulates and responds to them, but first, Chelsea has some new findings on the so-called love hormone and how it could help even when your not feeling especially amorous.

Chelsea - In your brain oxytocin plays a vital role during sex and emotional bonding, and according to Emory University behavioural scientist Beate Ditzen, it could even help during domestic spats. At the University of Zurich in Switzerland she and her colleagues monitored a stress hormone in couples discussing unresolved conflicts. Couples that snorted an oxytocin nasal spray beforehand produced significantly less of the stress hormone. They also talked more openly about their feelings.

Beate - I interpret that as very positive that oxytocin made them overcome their avoidance of this self-disclosure during conflict.

Chelsea - She says the ultimate goal isn't to medicate marriages but to understand how natural fluctuations in oxytocin can affect a relationship.

Bob - Thanks Chelsea. Well one thing that can stress a relationship is incessant screaming, crying, demanding: no we're not talking about your spouse, but your baby. And tough as it is for you to listen, it's even tougher being an infant. Could that crying mean that your child is suffering from debilitating stress? Well now you can find out with a simple drool test. It measures levels of alpha amylase, a digestive enzyme found in saliva. Increases in the enzyme have been linked to stress in adults, and now a team led by Doug Granger, drictor of the behavioural endocrinology lab at Penn State University found that abbaies also produced more of the enzyme in stressful situations. In older children, higher alpha amylase levels were linked to social problems, academic difficulties and even physical illness.

Doug - We are hoping that measures like this will allow us to determine who is more at resilient and who is more at risk of some of those negative consequences of stress.

Bob - And the ease of a saliva test could lead to new insights and earlier interventions for droolers of all ages.

Chelsea - Thanks Bob. Next week we'll learn about eggs that can run away from predators. Until then, I'm Chelsea Wald.

Bob - And I'm Bob Hirshon, for AAAS the science society. Back to you Naked Scientists.

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