Oxytocin enourages monogamy


Oxytocin is not just the feel-good-love hormone, it is also the monogamy hormone. Researchers have performed a new experiment that suggests oxytocin stimulates the reward center in the male brain increasing partner attractiveness and strengthening monogamy.

Oxytocin increased feelings about the women the men were bonded to

Monogamy is rare in the animal world, still, humans frequently exhibit this trait. Researchers were trying to uncover the forces at play in humans which lead to loving couples practicing fidelity. To examine the effects of oxytocin more closely, researchers showed 40 heterosexual men who were in permanent relationships photos of their female companions. They were also shown photos of other women, both familiar and unfamiliar. While looking, the men were given a dose of oxytocin or placebo. They followed brain activity through fMRI. Lead author Dirk Scheele noted that 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.”

Oxytocin acted like a drug for bonded couples

When addicts take drugs, it is to stimulate the reward center of the brain. The same effect happens with oxytocin. “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,” explained Dr. Rene Hurlemann, executive senior physician from the Bonn University Medical Center.

But isn’t monogamy counterproductive for disseminating male genes?

The classic view of evolutionary biology is that males attempt to disseminate their genes and ensure the longevity of their lineage. Monogamy, in fact, supports this effort. When monogamous, the female then is rewarded by caring for his offspring. She ensures the offspring’s survival and he ensures her safety. Monogamy also leads to multiple offspring. “When oxytocin strengths the partner bond, it increases the stability of the persons providing nutrition and thus the chances of survival for the progeny,” stated Dr. Hurlemann.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, PNAS


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