Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Monkey Love

Admit it!  You can't look at two baby monkies hugging without letting out a loud "Awhhh."  I have to admit, the adorable picture is what got me to start reading the article, but I'm glad I did. 

I was also attracted to the article because the title was of interest to me, Whiff of "Love Hormone" Helps Monkies Show a Little Kindness.  I wrote a psychology research proposal dealing with the "love hormone" and its importance to the maintenance of romantic relationships so I am familiar with this special little guy.  For those of you who are not, oxytocin is a mammalian hormone that is released during hugging, touching, or orgasm.  Oxytocin also acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain that is involved in social recognition and bonding, increasing trust and reducing fear, and generosity (PsychCentral).       

So how does one go about making monkies treat each other kindly?  A Duke University research team found that when oxytocin is nasally administered through a children-sized nebulizer the monkies (Rhesus macaques) pay more attention to each other and make decisions to give the other monkey a squirt of fruit juice even if they don't get any.  Two monkies were seated next to each other and trained to select symbols that (1) give a squirt of juice to one's self  (2) give a squirt of juice to the monkey next to them or (3) no juice at all.  Researchers found that when the monkey is given a dose of oxytocin, they were more likely to select the symbol that gave a squirt of fruit juice to the other monkey.  Neuroscientist and director of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences, Michael Platt, indicated that this study is significant because "it suggests that oxytocin breaks down normal social barriers." 

Not Rhesus macaques, but juice lover nonetheless

These results are great for the monkey population, but what can this mean for humans?  Oxytocin therapy is currently being evaluated as a treatment for autism, schizophrenia, and other disorders that tend to display lack of interest or care for others.  As evidenced by the study, oxytocin has the ability to increase trust and improve social skills.  Research is needed to determine how exactly this process works and if effects are consistent over the long term.  Further, this study shows that monkies are a good behavioral and pharmacological model for understanding oxytocin therapy.

I thought the fact that this study involved monkies was a good hook: it certainly caught my attention.  Also, for me, I was attracted to the title because I've done some past research on the "love hormone."  For those not familiar with it, the name itself is intriguing.  You immediately want to know "what is the love hormone, does everyone have the love hormone, how can I get more in my system, how is this even connected to monkies in the first place?"  For many people, an argument can be made that the "monkey house" is the best exhibit at the zoo because, as humans, we find these intelligent little relatives of ours fascinating and totally adorable.  I tried to grab the reader's attention with the large picture of two baby monkies embracing at the top of my post.  Also, I wanted to make sure I had enough "breaks" or separate paragraphs in the post so it doesn't appear daunting to the reader.  I think this also creates a better flow and the reader's attention is less likely to wander with shorter paragraphs.       

1 comment:

  1. Great use of 3-act structure. Your post sounded like a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. The hook was good which was followed by a description of the "love hormone" and results from the study. I'm curious how studies will develop with the oxytocin and humans. I also liked the look of the post in that the orange font tied into the pictures (the monkeys in the first and the juice box in the second). It made it look tied together.