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Monogamy gene found in people

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  • SP News
    Monogamy gene found in people * 22:00 01 September 2008 * NewScientist.com news service * Priya Shetty What if you could tell whether a man is husband material
    Message 1 of 2 , Oct 10, 2008
      Monogamy gene found in people

          * 22:00 01 September 2008
          * NewScientist.com news service
          * Priya Shetty

      What if you could tell whether a man is husband material just by peering at his genes?

      There has been speculation about the role of the hormone vasopressin in humans ever since we discovered that variations in where receptors for the hormone are expressed makes prairie voles strictly monogamous but meadow voles promiscuous; vasopressin is related to the "cuddle chemical" oxytocin. Now it seems variations in a section of the gene coding for a vasopressin receptor in people help to determine whether men are serial commitment-phobes or devoted husbands.

      Hasse Walum at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, and colleagues looked at the various forms of the gene coding for a vasopressin receptor in 552 Swedish people, who were all in heterosexual partnerships. The researchers also investigated the quality of their relationships.

      They found that variation in a section of the gene called RS3 334 was linked to how men bond with their partners. Men can have none, one or two copies of the RS3 334 section, and the higher the number of copies, the worse men scored on a measure of pair bonding.

      Not only that, men with two copies of RS3 334 were more likely to be unmarried than men with one or none, and if they were married, they were twice as likely to have a marital crisis.

      Commitment phobia

      Given that everyone surveyed had been in their relationship for at least five years, the team suggests that having multiple copies somehow contributes to commitment problems in men. Because the results were collected for a different study the team couldn't quiz the men on whether they were faithful, says Wallum.

      It is not clear exactly how multiple copies of RS3 334 affect expression of the vasopressin receptor, and our most intimate relationships. And yet that's the most interesting question, says Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

      In some animals, the theory is that the brain has two "motivational" systems: one for reward, the other for social perception. In prairie voles and marmosets, receptors for the two systems sit on adjacent cells, so social activity is highly rewarding, leading to monogamy. To see if the same mechanism is at work in people will mean using tissue from post-mortems to map where vasopressin receptors lie, to see if variations are linked to the number of copies of RS3 334.

      RS3 334's social effects extend beyond bonding in couples. Earlier this year, the same gene section was shown to affect signalling in people's amygdalas, linked to trust. Another study found that people with autism, which is characterised by unusual social behaviour, often have multiple copies of RS3 334.

      Walum's colleague Paul Lichtenstein says the team's next task is to test how a nasal vasopressin spray affects altruism and jealousy.

      Journal reference: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073pnas.0803081105

      Love - Learn more about the science behind it in our comprehensive special report.

      Genetics - Keep up with the pace in our continually updated special report.


    • Michael Rios
      This study has been widely misrepresented, as it has been in the article below. Notice that there are no hard numbers of any kind in the article. A more
      Message 2 of 2 , Oct 10, 2008

        This study has been widely misrepresented, as it has been in the article below.  Notice that there are no hard numbers of any kind in the article.  A more detailed report shows that the correlation is relatively weak, and that other factors clearly dominate.  So the idea that the presence or absence of the gene would tell you anything about an individual is entirely false.

         

        In the same way, we know that women, on average, are shorter than men—but not by all that much.  So if I tell you that there is a man and a woman in the next room, you really know nothing more about which of these two particular people were taller.  Small tendencies in a large population mean *nothing* when applied to individuals.

         

        Michael Rios

         


        From: sexualparadox@yahoogroups.com [mailto: sexualparadox@yahoogroups.com ] On Behalf Of SP News
        Sent: Friday, October 10, 2008 7:44 AM
        To: sexualparadox@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: [SP] Monogamy gene found in people

         

        Monogamy gene found in people

         

        * 22:00 01 September 2008

        * NewScientist. com news service

        * Priya Shetty

         

        What if you could tell whether a man is husband material just by peering at his genes?

         

        There has been speculation about the role of the hormone vasopressin in humans ever since we discovered that variations in where receptors for the hormone are expressed makes prairie voles strictly monogamous but meadow voles promiscuous; vasopressin is related to the "cuddle chemical" oxytocin. Now it seems variations in a section of the gene coding for a vasopressin receptor in people help to determine whether men are serial commitment-phobes or devoted husbands.

         

        Hasse Walum at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm , Sweden , and colleagues looked at the various forms of the gene coding for a vasopressin receptor in 552 Swedish people, who were all in heterosexual partnerships. The researchers also investigated the quality of their relationships.

         

        They found that variation in a section of the gene called RS3 334 was linked to how men bond with their partners. Men can have none, one or two copies of the RS3 334 section, and the higher the number of copies, the worse men scored on a measure of pair bonding.

         

        Not only that, men with two copies of RS3 334 were more likely to be unmarried than men with one or none, and if they were married, they were twice as likely to have a marital crisis.

         

        Commitment phobia

         

        Given that everyone surveyed had been in their relationship for at least five years, the team suggests that having multiple copies somehow contributes to commitment problems in men. Because the results were collected for a different study the team couldn't quiz the men on whether they were faithful, says Wallum.

         

        It is not clear exactly how multiple copies of RS3 334 affect expression of the vasopressin receptor, and our most intimate relationships. And yet that's the most interesting question, says Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland .

         

        In some animals, the theory is that the brain has two "motivational" systems: one for reward, the other for social perception. In prairie voles and marmosets, receptors for the two systems sit on adjacent cells, so social activity is highly rewarding, leading to monogamy. To see if the same mechanism is at work in people will mean using tissue from post-mortems to map where vasopressin receptors lie, to see if variations are linked to the number of copies of RS3 334.

         

        RS3 334's social effects extend beyond bonding in couples. Earlier this year, the same gene section was shown to affect signalling in people's amygdalas, linked to trust. Another study found that people with autism, which is characterised by unusual social behaviour, often have multiple copies of RS3 334.

         

        Walum's colleague Paul Lichtenstein says the team's next task is to test how a nasal vasopressin spray affects altruism and jealousy.

         

        Journal reference: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073pnas. 0803081105

         

        Love - Learn more about the science behind it in our comprehensive special report.

         

        Genetics - Keep up with the pace in our continually updated special report.

         

         

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