A study led by Georgia State University on the brain mechanisms that determine the rewarding properties of social interactions now finds that women find same-sex social interactions to be more rewarding than males.
The study also found that females are more sensitive to the rewarding actions of oxytocin (OT) than males.
Speaking about the study, lead author of the study Dr. Elliott Albers, said, “Recognising gender differences in social reward processing is essential for understanding sex differences in the occurrence of many mental health diseases and the development of gender-specific treatments for psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, substance abuse and schizophrenia.”
The findings are published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.
The research team further found that while oxytocin acting within the ‘reward circuit’ in the brain is essential for the rewarding properties of social interaction in both males and females, females are more sensitive to the actions of oxytocin than males.
Furthermore, the team found that as the intensity of social interactions increases among females, these interactions become more rewarding up to a point and then are ultimately reduced.
It is well known that OT receptors in the brain play a major role in regulating various forms of social behaviour as well as pair bonding. Studies show that social support reduces drug use, stress and can predict better mental health outcomes in the treatment of various psychiatric disorders.
Study data showed that activation of OT receptors was critical for social interaction to be rewarding in both males and females, but females were more sensitive to the actions of OT than males. This is the first study to provide evidence that same-sex social interactions and OT are more rewarding in females than in males in an animal model. These findings are consistent with human studies.