Sex, love and oxytocin: Two metaphors and a molecule.
Dozens of studies, most conducted in the last four decades, have implicated oxytocin, as well as vasopressin and their receptors, in processes that mediate selective sociality and the consequences of early experience. Oxytocin is critical for the capacity to experience emotional safety and healthy sexuality. Oxytocin also plays a central role in almost every aspect of physical and mental health, including the coordination of sociality and loving relationships with physiological reactions to challenges across the lifespan. Species, including prairie voles, that share with humans the capacity for selective social bonds have been a particularly rich source of insights into the behavioral importance of peptides. The purpose of this historical review is to describe the discovery of a central role for oxytocin in behavioral interactions associated with love, and in the capacity to use sociality to anticipate and cope with challenges across the lifespan - a process that here is called "sociostasis."