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What is Vasopressin?

Jessica Ellis
Updated May 21, 2024
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Vasopressin is a hormone formed in the hypothalmus and secreted by the pituitary gland in mammals. The hormone has a variety of effects when released, though it is used primarily to control water retention through reduction of urine output. Recent studies suggest that vasopressin has another interesting purpose, however, as it may affect the ability to form pair-bonds in some mammals.

When the body is dehydrated, it uses vasopressin as a way to regulate water in the body. By reducing and concentrating the amount of urine discarded, the hormone helps the body to reabsorb available water and keep organs functioning normally. This is considered the primary use of the hormone, but it is far from the hormone’s only ability.

If high amounts of vasopressin are released into the body via the pituitary gland, it can cause vasoconstriction. This process narrows the blood vessels and can temporarily increase blood pressure. If the body suffers a severe shock, such as those caused by trauma or a stroke, blood pressure can drop to dangerously low levels. The release of vasopressin can help restore the body to normal blood pressure and prevent or reduce the effects of shock.

Some recent studies have shown that the hormone may cause a variety of interesting neurological effects. In voles and rats, vasopressin has been shown to have considerable impact on sexual, mating, and parenting behaviors. It is also believed to be related to aggressive behaviors, most particularly those compatible with maternal or protective behaviors.

Animals known for monogamous behavior, such as prairie voles, exhibit higher levels of vasopressin than their polygamous counterparts. In humans, some studies have been done that claim to show a correlation between high levels of the hormone and happiness in monogamous relationships or marriage. These findings remain somewhat controversial, but most experts agree with the assessment that some relationship exists between monogamous tendencies and vasopressin levels.

Although the behavior of voles may seem to have little relation to that of humans, social relationships with other humans have proved vital to human survival throughout history. While humans tend to associate their affection or commitment to others as a result of their emotions, the influence of hormones such as vasopressin on creating and continuing emotional relationships is a subject of consistent scientific study throughout the 20th and 21st centuries.

The body is a strange and wonderful organism, and extremely efficient in its use of available materials. While it may seem a bit odd that a hormone used primarily to control kidney function could also help you have a happy marriage, it is simply another example of the efficiency of the system. Ensuring a strong pair bond raises the likelihood of offspring with two parents to provide and protect them, therefore raising the likelihood of survival. Vasopressin, in addition to its useful abilities to regulate kidney function and provide necessary vasoconstriction, may also be a secret agent working to help you fall in love, and stay that way.

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Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for All The Science. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.
Discussion Comments
By donasmrs — On Mar 26, 2014

@SarahGen-- Well if your body is in a fasting state long enough to be dehydrated, then yes.

If you fast regularly, you will notice that urinate much less while fasting. This is due to the vasopressin. The kidneys reduce urine output and try to maintain as much of the water as possible.

Fasting is a required or encouraged in some traditions and religions. Short term fasting is not a problem. But those fasting for longer periods must drink plenty of water after the fast is over to replace what has been lost. The water should not be drank quickly however, it should be sipped slowly over many hours. It takes some time for the kidneys to return to its normal urine output after fasting.

By SarahGen — On Mar 25, 2014

Does the body release more vasopressin during fasting?

By serenesurface — On Mar 25, 2014

The theory about the relationship between vasopressin and monogamous relationships is very interesting.

I do believe that chemicals and hormones play an important role on our emotions. If hormonal imbalances and chemical imbalances can lead to anxiety and depression, I think that they can also lead to different behaviors. So this theory does not seem very far fetched to me. But I hope that more studies are done on this topic because I would love to see some concrete evidence.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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