Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Oxytocin leads to monogamy

Date:
November 25, 2013
Source:
Universität Bonn
Summary:
How is the bond between people in love maintained? Scientists have discovered a biological mechanism that could explain the attraction between loving couples: If oxytocin is administered to men and if they are shown pictures of their partner, the bonding hormone stimulates the reward center in the brain, increasing the attractiveness of the partner, and strengthening monogamy.

Couple in love. Overall the data from this study showed that oxytocin activates the reward system, thus maintaining the bond between the lovers and promoting monogamy.
Credit: © Coka / Fotolia

How is the bond between people in love maintained? Scientists at the Bonn University Medical Center have discovered a biological mechanism that could explain the attraction between loving couples: If oxytocin is administered to men and if they are shown pictures of their partner, the bonding hormone stimulates the reward center in the brain, increasing the attractiveness of the partner, and strengthening monogamy. The results are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Related Articles


Monogamy is not very widespread among mammals; human beings represent an exception. Comparatively many couples of the species Homo sapiens have no other partners in a love relationship. For a long time, science has therefore been trying to discover the unknown forces that cause loving couples to be faithful. "An important role in partner bonding is played by the hormone oxytocin, which is secreted in the brain," says Prof. Dr. René Hurlemann, Executive Senior Physician at the Inpatient and Outpatient Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy of the Bonn University Medical Center. A team of scientists at the University of Bonn under the direction of Prof. Hurlemann and with participation by researchers at the Ruhr University of Bochum and the University of Chengdu (China) examined the effect of the "bonding hormone" more precisely.

Oxytocin makes the partner more attractive

The researchers showed pictures of their female partners to a total of 40 heterosexual men who were in a permanent relationship -- and pictures of other women for comparison. First a dose of oxytocin was administered to the subjects in a nasal spray; and then a placebo at a later date. Furthermore, the scientists also studied the brain activity of the subjects with the help of functional magnetic resonance tomography. "When the men received oxytocin instead of the placebo, their reward system in the brain when viewing the partner was very active, and they perceived them as more attractive than the other women," says lead author Dirk Scheele.

In another series of tests, the researchers tested whether oxytocin enhances the activation of the reward system only when seeing the partner or whether there is a similar effect with pictures of acquaintances and female work colleagues of many years. "The activation of the reward system with the aid of oxytocin had a very selective effect with the pictures of the partners," says psychologist Dirk Scheele. "We did not detect this effect with pictures of longstanding acquaintances." Based on these results, therefore, simple familiarity is not enough to stimulate the bonding effect. They have to be loving couples; of that the scientists are convinced.

Biological mechanism of couple relationships acts like a drug

Overall the data showed that oxytocin activates the reward system, thus maintaining the bond between the lovers and promoting monogamy. "This biological mechanism in a couple relationship is very similar to a drug," says Prof. Hurlemann. Both in love and in taking drugs, people are striving to stimulate the reward system in the brain. "This could also explain why people fall into depression or deep mourning after a separation from their partner: Due to the lack of oxytocin secretion, the reward system is under-stimulated, and is more or less in a withdrawal state," says Prof. Hurlemann. However, therapy with the bonding hormone could possibly be counterproductive: Administration of oxytocin could possibly even increase the suffering, because it would only make the longing for the beloved partner even greater.

At first glance, monogamy does not make much sense. In the classical view of evolutionary biology, men have an advantage when they disseminate their genes as greatly as possible through many different partners. But another aspect also plays a big role: "When oxytocin strengthens the partner bond, it increases the stability of the persons providing nutrition and thus the chances of survival for the progeny," explains Prof. Hurlemann. And a person's genes are in turn further disseminated through the children.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. D. Scheele, A. Wille, K. M. Kendrick, B. Stoffel-Wagner, B. Becker, O. Gunturkun, W. Maier, R. Hurlemann. Oxytocin enhances brain reward system responses in men viewing the face of their female partner. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2013; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1314190110

Cite This Page:

Universität Bonn. "Oxytocin leads to monogamy." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 November 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131125164311.htm>.
Universität Bonn. (2013, November 25). Oxytocin leads to monogamy. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131125164311.htm
Universität Bonn. "Oxytocin leads to monogamy." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131125164311.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

AP (Oct. 23, 2014) — A scandal involving bogus classes and inflated grades at the University of North Carolina was bigger than previously reported, a new investigation found. (Oct. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother (Oct. 22, 2014) — Feast your eyes on this gorgeous family-friendly resort. Video provided by Working Mother
Powered by NewsLook.com
What Your Favorite Color Says About You

What Your Favorite Color Says About You

Buzz60 (Oct. 22, 2014) — We all have one color we love to wear, and believe it or not, your color preference may reveal some of your character traits. In celebration of National Color Day, Krystin Goodwin (@kyrstingoodwin) highlights what your favorite colors may say about you. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) — A medical team has for the first time given a man the ability to walk again after transplanting cells from his brain onto his severed spinal cord. Video provided by Newsy
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

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