Variation in the gene for one of the receptors for the hormone vasopressin appears to be associated with how human males bond with their partners, according to an international team of researchers.
The researchers found that the "334" allele of a common AVPR1A variation, the human version of avpr1a studied in voles, seemed to have negative effects on men's relationship with their spouses.
"Our findings are particularly interesting because they show that men who are in a relatively stable relationship of five years of more who have one or two copies of allele 334 appear to be less bonded to their partners than men with other forms of this gene," says Jenae Neiderhiser, professor of psychology, Penn State. "We also found that the female partners of men with one or two copies of allele 334 reported less affection, consensus and cohesion in the marriage, but interestingly, did not report lower levels of marital satisfaction than women whose male partners had no copies of allele 334."
In voles, a mouse-like animal, the comparable gene has been studied extensively and has long been linked to vole bonding behaviors. This is the first study to suggest that the wealth of information on vole pair-bonding may also apply to humans and may help to inform research on human disorders related to impaired social interactions and communication, such as autism.
A series of studies on vole populations, begun at the NIMH Intramural Research Program in the mid 1980s, showed that, in male rodents, variations in a section of the gene avpr1a affect social bonding behaviors, such as choosing a mate and parenting. The animal studies suggested a possible connection between a seemingly useless piece of DNA and bonding behavior. Recently, some research on AVPR1A in humans suggest a possible link with autism and certain social behaviors, such as altruism, but no direct link to human pair-bonding had previously been known.
"A study by Erica Spo
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