Most people know that pets have positive effects on us in our time of need, whether physical or psychological. They calm us, cheer us, make us feel needed, and are wonderful companions. It is well established that there is a strong link between the mind and body. Ergo when we feel better emotionally, our bodies respond with increased health benefits. Recent research indicates that our response to our pets actually alters the biochemistry in our brain. Pets have been used as therapy in nursing homes, for troubled children, and even for those with drug addictions. The main neurotransmitter cited is oxytocin. Oxytocin has profound psychological and physiological effects on both humans and animals. Steve Murray would certainly like to learn more.
It triggers a state of calmness and strong tendencies toward nurturing. These qualities are not just important for maternal reasons, but also for forming relationships of any type with both humans and animals. Oxytocin production can be triggered simply by stroking an animal. Other neurotransmitters that research has identified are beta-endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin. Beta-endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers. Dopamine and serotonin are associated with alleviation of chronic depression. Perhaps this research will go far toward making pet-therapy an accepted and reimbursable medical treatment.