In chimpanzees, social grooming builds bonds, begets a buzz

Levels of 'love hormone' oxytocin higher in chimps after grooming with cooperative partner

Credit: Source: craig.hamnett via Flickr

I often tell my wife that if we were apes, I would gladly pick bugs off her (if not eat them). Believe me, that line is like an aphrodisiac. But I truly do mean it, and now more than ever because a new study suggests that mutual grooming among chimpanzees builds social bonds and makes them high! Talk about a win-win! Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany have determined that cooperative relationships between chimpanzees are facilitated by an endocrinological mechanism involving the hormone oxytocin. Oh, wait, I guess that's different than OxyContin, a.k.a. "hillbilly heroin." Still, oxytocin itself sounds pretty cool. From wikipedia: "Oxytocin evokes feelings of contentment, reductions in anxiety, and feelings of calmness and security around the mate." So it's sort of like getting high, but with a natural hormone instead of a drug. Here's how the study went down, according to the Max Planck Institute:

The team collected urine samples of 33 chimpanzees from Budongo Forest, Uganda, and measured their urinary oxytocin levels after single episodes of a specific cooperative behavior, mutual grooming. The result: Oxytocin levels were higher after grooming with cooperation partners compared with non-cooperation partners or after no grooming, regardless of genetic relatedness or sexual interest. This suggests that in chimpanzees oxytocin, which acts directly on neural reward and social memory systems, plays a key role maintaining social relations beyond genetic ties and in keeping track of social interactions with multiple individuals over time.

And the chimps don't even have to rob a pharmacy to get their fix. Just groom with a willing partner to get a little buzz with your bonding. It's not a bad life, the bugs on your partner's body aside. Now read this:

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