Human-Human and Human-Animal Interaction : Some Common Physiological and Psychological Effects
Abstract: The aim of the present thesis was to investigate hormonal and physiological effects in mothers during a breastfeeding session and in dogs and their owners in response to short-term interaction.In study one, sixty-six mothers receiving either exogenous oxytocin infusion and/or epidural analgesia (EDA) during labor or intramuscular oxytocin injection post partum were studied. Oxytocin, prolactin, adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) and cortisol levels, as well as blood pressure were measured during a breastfeeding session two days after birth. In response to breastfeeding two days after birth, the mothers displayed a pulsatile release of oxytocin and increasing prolactin levels. In addition, the activity in the HPA-axis was reduced and maternal blood pressure decreased. The results also show that EDA administration in combination with oxytocin during labor resulted insignificantly lower oxytocin levels and higher cortisol levels, as well as higher bloodpressure in response to breastfeeding two days after birth, compared to EDA administration alone. In addition, oxytocin infusions dose-dependently lowered the mothers’ endogenous oxytocin levels two days after birth. In study two, ten female dog owners and their male Labrador dogs participated, together with ten controls. Their levels of oxytocin, cortisol and insulin, as well as their heart rate, were measured. The connection between the quality of the dogowner relationship and hormone levels was also explored. Short-term interaction between dogs and their owners resulted in oxytocin release in both species and their cortisol levels and heart rate were also affected. Oxytocin levels and positive attitudes regarding the dog-owner relationship were positively correlated. In conclusion, both human-human and human-animal interactions induce oxytocin release and promote oxytocin mediated effects, such as decreasing cortisol levels and blood pressure. In addition, social interaction and oxytocin levels arepositively related.
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