Gene affects social bonding ability: Study

23 June 2016

Lower activity of a specific gene may affect a person's social behaviour, including the ability to form healthy relationships, according to researchers.

The OXT gene, sometimes referred to as the ''love hormone'' is involved in the production of oxytocin, a hormone linked with a large number of social behaviors in people.

Researchers from the University of Georgia assessed more than 120 people, conducting genetic tests and assessments of social skills, brain structure and brain function.

The investigation revealed that those with lower activity of the OXT gene had a harder time recognising emotional facial expressions and tended to be more anxious about their relationships with loved ones.

Further, the low-OXT people also had less activity in brain regions associated with social thinking, and also had less gray matter in an area of the brain important for face processing and social thinking.

"All of our tests indicate that the OXT gene plays an important role in social behaviour and brain function," a Gerogia University release quoted lead author Brian Haas, an assistant professor of psychology at the university.

According to Haas, these were preliminary findings and further studies were needed, but this research could lead to new and better treatments for a number of social disorders.

The researchers found that the modification of the gene for oxytocin was associated with differences in social behaviour between people.

Though it is called a love hormone, the research showed that oxytocin played a more complex role in the body.

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