My Roses 29th November 2013
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” (PNAS).
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,
Oxytocin makes the partner more attractive
. “When men received oxytocin instead of a placebo during research, 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.
. “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 but could be the cause of deep grief
“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 understimulated, and is more or less in a withdrawal state. 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.
Source: University of Bonn