Oxytocin: pain relief in skin
The hypothalamic neuropeptide oxytocin attracts the attention of both the neuroscientific community and the general public, especially because of its prosocial effects. In the brain, this neuropeptide is synthesized in neurons exclusively located within the hypothalamic nuclei. Magnocellular neurons compose the larger population of oxytocinergic neurons, project to the posterior pituitary lobe and, from there, release oxytocin into the blood stream. Simultaneously, these neurons project to extrahypothalamic forebrain areas such as the amygdala, hippocampus, and cerebral cortex.11 A smaller population of parvocellular oxytocinergic neurons release oxytocin in the brainstem and spinal cord but not in the blood flow. Thus, through synchronized release into the blood and the central nervous system (CNS), oxytocin is able to exert both central and peripheral actions to modulate a variety of social and nonsocial behaviors, including nociception and pain.