Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Whiff of 'love hormone' helps monkeys show a little kindness

Date:
January 8, 2012
Source:
Duke University
Summary:
Oxytocin, the "love hormone" that builds mother-baby bonds and may help us feel more connected toward one another, can also make surly monkeys treat each other a little more kindly.

Baby monkeys. Oxytocin, the "love hormone" that builds mother-baby bonds and may help us feel more connected toward one another, can also make surly monkeys treat each other a little more kindly.
Credit: David Cloud / Fotolia

Oxytocin, the "love hormone" that builds mother-baby bonds and may help us feel more connected toward one another, can also make surly monkeys treat each other a little more kindly.

Administering the hormone nasally through a kid-sized nebulizer, like a gas mask, a Duke University research team has shown that it can make rhesus macaques pay more attention to each other and make choices that give another monkey a squirt of fruit juice, even when they don't get one themselves.

Two macaques were seated next to each other and trained to select symbols from a screen that represented giving a rewarding squirt of juice to one's self, giving juice to the neighbor, or not handing out any juice at all. In repeated trials, they were faced with a choice between just two of these options at a time: reward to self vs. no reward; reward to self vs. reward to other; and reward to other vs. no reward.

"The inhaled oxytocin enhanced 'prosocial' choices by the monkeys, perhaps by making them pay more attention to the other individual," said neuroscientist Michael Platt, who headed the study and is director of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences. "If that's true, it's really cool, because it suggests that oxytocin breaks down normal social barriers."

Earlier work by Platt's group had shown that macaques would rather give a reward to another monkey when the alternative is no reward for anyone, a concept they call "vicarious reinforcement." Their data in the latest study show an apparent improvement in vicarious reinforcement about a half-hour after exposure to oxytocin. Interestingly, for the first half-hour, the monkey was more likely to reward itself.

The researchers also tracked the monkeys' eye movements. Typically after making a prosocial choice, they will shift their gaze to the other monkey. Under the influence of oxytocin, the gaze lingered a bit more when they made other vs. neither choices.

The hormone is currently being evaluated as a therapy for autism, schizophrenia and other disorders that are marked by an apparent lack of interest or caring about others, Platt said. It seems to give patients increased trust and better social skills, but not much is known about how that process works, or whether the effects would be consistent over the long term.

This study may help establish monkeys as a good behavioral and pharmacological model for understanding oxytocin therapy, Platt said.

The nebulizer mask used in these tests is also more pleasant than the sprays now being used on humans, he added. "We were able to make the inhalation very tolerable by using the pediatric nebulizer," Platt said. "This may be much better for treating young children with autism or related disorders than the typical nasal spray, which can be uncomfortable. It may deliver the hormone more effectively, too."

The researchers were also able to determine for the first time that nasally administered oxytocin actually travels into the brain. "Understanding how oxytocin works in the brain, where the site of action is, and the long-term consequences of treatment can't be done in humans," Platt said. "And rodent models are too distant behaviorally and neurologically to provide much insight."

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Ruth K. Broad Biomedical Foundation and the Davis Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Duke University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. S. W. C. Chang, J. W. Barter, R. B. Ebitz, K. K. Watson, M. L. Platt. Inhaled oxytocin amplifies both vicarious reinforcement and self reinforcement in rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2012; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1114621109

Cite This Page:

Duke University. "Whiff of 'love hormone' helps monkeys show a little kindness." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 January 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120105145835.htm>.
Duke University. (2012, January 8). Whiff of 'love hormone' helps monkeys show a little kindness. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120105145835.htm
Duke University. "Whiff of 'love hormone' helps monkeys show a little kindness." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120105145835.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 16, 2014) Crocodile farming has been a challenge in Zimbabwe in recent years do the economic collapse and the financial crisis. But as Ciara Sutton reports one of Europe's biggest suppliers of skins to the luxury market has come up with an unusual survival strategy - vegetarian food. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Thousands Of Vials Of SARS Virus Go Missing

Thousands Of Vials Of SARS Virus Go Missing

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A research institute in Paris somehow misplaced more than 2,000 vials of the deadly SARS virus. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Three Rare White Tiger Cubs Debut at Zoo

Raw: Three Rare White Tiger Cubs Debut at Zoo

AP (Apr. 16, 2014) The Buenos Aires Zoo debuted a trio of rare white Bengal tiger cubs on Wednesday. (April 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins