They say those who have long-lasting, healthy relationships are "lucky" in love, but what if it's not luck at all? New research has found genetics may play a big role in how good you are at forming strong relationships.
In a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers identified the gene that may affect social behavior. The gene is called the OXT gene and it's the one responsible for producing oxytocin, aka the love hormone. Previous research has found women release high levels of oxytocin during childbirth, and both men and women release the hormone during sex and contact with loved ones. The new research looked at how different levels of oxytocin in the body affected a person's social behavior.
For the study, researchers from the University of Georgia, Emory University, and Stanford University tested the saliva of 120 volunteers to determine their oxytocin levels. They then showed each participant video clips of random facial expressions to test their ability to recognize emotions using facial cues. Finally, they used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to look at areas of the brain involved with social behavior and facial processing.
The team found that participants with low OXT gene activity had the most difficulty identifying emotions using facial cues. They were also the most likely to express concerns about their own relationships. In the brain, researchers found that volunteers with the least amount of oxytocin also had less gray matter in the part of the brain that controls processing of social behaviors.
While more research needs to be conducted to get a better understanding of how the love hormone affects social relationships, researchers hope this line of studies might one day lead to the development of medications that can help stimulate the OXT gene, offering those with social disorders better tools for developing strong, healthy relationships.