Variation in the β-endorphin, oxytocin, and dopamine receptor genes is associated with different dimensions of human sociality

Eiluned Pearce, Rafael Wlodarski, Anna Machin, Robin I.M. Dunbar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)
5 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

There is growing evidence that the number and quality of social relationships have substantial impacts on health, well-being, and longevity, and, at least in animals, on reproductive fitness. Although it is widely recognized that these outcomes are mediated by a number of neuropeptides, the roles these play remain debated. We suggest that an overemphasis on one neuropeptide (oxytocin), combined with a failure to distinguish between different social domains, has obscured the complexity involved.We use variation in 33 SNPs for the receptor genes for six well-known social neuropeptides in relation to three separate domains of sociality (social disposition, dyadic relationships, and social networks) to show that three neuropeptides (β-endorphin, oxytocin, and dopamine) play particularly important roles, with each being associated predominantly with a different social domain. However, endorphins and dopamine have a much wider compass than oxytocin (whose effects are confined to romantic/reproductive relationships and often do not survive control for other neuropeptides). In contrast, vasopressin, serotonin, and testosterone play only limited roles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5300-5305
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume114
Issue number20
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 16 May 2017
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • Empathy
  • Genetics
  • Romantic relationships
  • Social networks
  • Social neuropeptides

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