Friday, October 8, 2010

Drug Yourself Monogamous

Did you know that only about 3% of mammals are monogamous? What if something could be done to alter this? An extensive study on prairie voles (aka furry creatures above) has lead to some very interesting findings with regards to the neuroendocrinology of social bonds.

Prairie voles are one of the few mammals that practice monogamy. A study on these little guys have provided scientists with a new understanding of the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin.

"Work with voles now suggests that these hormones are involved in the development of monogamy."

Furthermore, Larry Young (a neuroscientist who studies prairie voles) claims the following:

"pair-bonding in humans (as in voles, one of the few other monogamous mammals) can be enhanced or suppressed by tinkering with brain hormones like oxytocin and vasopressin" (and predicts that we’ll be seeing new drugs to do just that

Inspiration for this post came from this excerpt in Jodi Picoult's "House Rules" [a book a highly recommend]:

"Let me stop you for a minute and just talk about prairie voles. They are part of only a tiny fraction of the animal kingdom that practice monogamy. They mate for twenty-four hours, and then, just like that, they're together for life. However, the montane vole- which is a close relative, sharing 99% of the prairie vole's genetic makeup- has no interest in anything except a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am one-night stand. How come? When prairie voles have sexual intercourse, the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin flood the brain. If the hormones are blocked, prairie voles behave more like slutty montane voles. Even more interesting, if prairie voles get injections of those hormones but then are prevented from having sex, they still become slavishly devoted to their would-be mates...

The opposite, though, isn't true. You cant give a shot of hormones to a montane vole and make it lovesick. It just doesn't have the right receptors in the brain." -pg 399

Sooooo, do you think that in the future we may be able to drug ourselves monogamous? Would we even want this? What will TLC do with its shows devoted to polygamy?!


  1. I don't even think if we inject men with these hormones it would help. We are doomed!

  2. Its amazing what Voles can teach us! ... but somehow I think that humans are not naturally monogamous or we would all be with our first girl/boyfriends!

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