(STANFORD, Calif.) -- Oxytocin, known often as “the love hormone” due to its role in promoting mother-child bonding and monogamous relationships, may be helpful for promoting social interactions as well – at least according to a new study in mice. The reward people feel from spending time with others may not be felt by those with anti-social behavior, such as people with autism.
Researchers have wondered whether this could be due to differences in oxytocin receptors. For this study published in the journal Nature, Stanford University researchers looked at mice, known to be very social animals, and studied how blocking the receptor for oxytocin affected their desire to spend time with other mice. Mice with missing oxytocin receptors in their brain preferred to be alone, even when given the option of being social.
This research suggests that, just like eating, drinking and having sex, having social interactions triggers a sense of reward, and the love drug oxytocin just might be the secret ingredient.
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