Variation in the β-endorphin, oxytocin, and dopamine receptor genes is associated with different dimensions of human sociality.
Pearce E., Wlodarski R., Machin A., Dunbar RIM.
There is growing evidence that the number and quality of social relationships have substantial impacts on health, well-being, and longevity, and, at least in animals, on reproductive fitness. Although it is widely recognized that these outcomes are mediated by a number of neuropeptides, the roles these play remain debated. We suggest that an overemphasis on one neuropeptide (oxytocin), combined with a failure to distinguish between different social domains, has obscured the complexity involved. We use variation in 33 SNPs for the receptor genes for six well-known social neuropeptides in relation to three separate domains of sociality (social disposition, dyadic relationships, and social networks) to show that three neuropeptides (β-endorphin, oxytocin, and dopamine) play particularly important roles, with each being associated predominantly with a different social domain. However, endorphins and dopamine have a much wider compass than oxytocin (whose effects are confined to romantic/reproductive relationships and often do not survive control for other neuropeptides). In contrast, vasopressin, serotonin, and testosterone play only limited roles.