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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Dec 10;110(50):20308-13. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1314190110. Epub 2013 Nov 25.

Oxytocin enhances brain reward system responses in men viewing the face of their female partner.

Author information

1
Departments of Psychiatry, Medical Psychology, and Clinical Chemistry and Clinical Pharmacology, University of Bonn, 53105 Bonn, Germany.

Abstract

The biological mechanisms underlying long-term partner bonds in humans are unclear. The evolutionarily conserved neuropeptide oxytocin (OXT) is associated with the formation of partner bonds in some species via interactions with brain dopamine reward systems. However, whether it plays a similar role in humans has as yet not been established. Here, we report the results of a discovery and a replication study, each involving a double-blind, placebo-controlled, within-subject, pharmaco-functional MRI experiment with 20 heterosexual pair-bonded male volunteers. In both experiments, intranasal OXT treatment (24 IU) made subjects perceive their female partner's face as more attractive compared with unfamiliar women but had no effect on the attractiveness of other familiar women. This enhanced positive partner bias was paralleled by an increased response to partner stimuli compared with unfamiliar women in brain reward regions including the ventral tegmental area and the nucleus accumbens (NAcc). In the left NAcc, OXT even augmented the neural response to the partner compared with a familiar woman, indicating that this finding is partner-bond specific rather than due to familiarity. Taken together, our results suggest that OXT could contribute to romantic bonds in men by enhancing their partner's attractiveness and reward value compared with other women.

KEYWORDS:

emotion; functional imaging; love; monogamy

PMID:
24277856
PMCID:
PMC3864312
DOI:
10.1073/pnas.1314190110
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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