In chimpanzees, social grooming builds bonds, begets a buzz

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


This is a full-sized image - 600 x 450

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:

10 things that happen to our bodies during space flight

Spidernaut never got to enjoy its fame

Polar ice sheets continue to melt, but climate-change deniers remain thick as ever

Join us:






Answers - Powered by ITworld

ITworld Answers helps you solve problems and share expertise. Ask a question or take a crack at answering the new questions below.

Ask a Question