Frank Salvatore
Health and Lifestyle

Does Your DNA Make You More Social?

July 1, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Do you tend to be more of a lone wolf, or do people describe you as a social butterfly? If you?ve ever wondered why some people prefer to be social while others seem content with a more solitary existence, science could have the answers. Your desires for social interaction, and even romantic relationships, could be impacted by your genetics. A recent study found a strong connection between the body?s production of oxytocin and the individual?s need for social connections and relationships.

Oxytocin and Methylation

Oxytocin is a powerful hormone that produces warm, happy feelings. Also dubbed the ?love hormone? or the ?trust molecule?, oxytocin has been proven to play a major role in relationships and bonding. Many believe that the hormone is directly responsible for creating the emotions associated with falling in love. Oxytocin is produced in the body as a normal process, but actions like hugging, kissing, cuddling, etc. stimulate its production making you feel more loving and connected.

While touching and being intimate stimulates oxytocin production, stress, malnutrition, and a process known as methylation stops oxytocin in its tracks. Methylation is a biochemical process that acts as an on/off switch inside the body. When oxytocin is methylated, it stops production. Your DNA determines how methylation occurs for various chemical processes. This includes the production of oxytocin. DNA methylation of oxytocin occurs at higher levels in some people.

Oxytocin and Sociability

A recent study, submitted to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, explored the connection between methylation of oxytocin and social behavior. Researchers began by taking saliva samples from study participants and analyzing them to determine how DNA methylation affected oxytocin in each individual. They also collected data on each participant?s attachment styles, social preferences, and ability to recognize emotional responses in others. What the researchers found was very interesting. Participants who had higher methylation were identified as those who self-reported as less social and didn?t do as well on the sociability tests. The participants with lower methylation displayed more secure attachment styles and did a better job recognizing emotional facial expressions.

What Does It Mean?

So, what do these findings mean? The study shows that your genetics play an important role in your social interactions. Your genes can determine whether you prefer your alone time or crave companionship. For some people, those whose DNA methylation of oxytocin is higher, camaraderie and building rapport don?t come as naturally. This information doesn?t just explain why people have different preferences when it comes to intimacy. The findings can also be used to help prevent and treat people with impairments related to social behavior.

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Frank Salvatore