A new study found that there could be a specific gene in charge of a person’s social behavior. Researchers discovered an association between lowered activity of that particular gene and a difficulty in a person’s ability to form healthy relationships and their overall social health.
Scientifically known as the OXT gene but familiarly called the “love hormone” gene, it is linked to the production of oxytocin – a hormone linked with people’s social behavior.
For the small-scope study, a team of researchers at the University of Georgia analyzed more than 120 people. The participants underwent genetic tests and their social skills were assessed by the scientists, as well as brain functions and brain structure.
After the evaluations, researchers found that the participants who presented lower activity of the OXT gene did not recognize facial expressions as well as those who had a normal activity of this gene. They were also prone to be more anxious in their relationships with their loved ones and in the workspace.
The study published on June 20 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences also revealed that the brains of participants with low-OXT activity lit up less in certain regions associated with social thinking and behavior.
Researchers also noted that low-OXT was linked to less gray matter in the particular areas of the patients’ brains that have to do with face processing and social thinking.
Brian Haas, the senior author of the study and an assistant professor of psychology at the university, commented on the findings by saying that “All of our tests indicate that the OXT gene plays an important role in social behavior and brain function.”
However, Haas also noted that the findings of this study are both preliminary and based on a fairly small number of participants, so more investigations are required before a conclusive relationship between the love hormone and social behavior can be established.
Haas also expressed his hope that the study can aid the development of better and more efficient treatment for people who have been diagnosed with various social disorders, including anxiety and agoraphobia.
Image Source: YouTube