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The Networks In My Head Like You A Lot…

In the research article “Oxytocin Receptor Density Is Associated with Male Mating Tactics and Social Monogamy” by Ophir, Gessel, Zheng, and Phelps, the neuroanatomy and mating tactics of the monogamous male prairie voles and non-monogamous male meadow voles were analyzed. Through social experiments and observations of partner preferences, they were able to connect neural network qualities (specifically the one quality of receptor concentration) to apparent effects on the behavior of pairbonding. The research provided fruitful evidence for the fact that a particular aspect of neural networks can have a strong effect on the mammalian monogamous behavior. They found that monogamous males had a higher concentration of oxytocin receptors in the network region of the nucleus accumbens. They also saw that the concentration of oxytocin receptors in the insula acted as a predictor of mating success, while oxytocin receptor concentrations in the hippocampus acted as a mating reproductive success predictor.


In lecture, we established that neuronal networks exemplify common networks that we come in to contact with on a daily basis. Here we see a network sending signals through interconnected axons which use the information stored within the signals for displaying specific behaviors. However, this network is modified to meet human biological ends, and it does not simply just send signals to other neuronal somas in the network. This network needs to be able to influence a person (of which the entire network is a single aspect) to bond closely to some people and not others which makes it necessary for this network to display specific ramifications toward certain stimuli. In order to work properly and produce a well-adjusted human being, this neuronal network needs to be able to bond strongly to certain people.


This network causes bonding in an organism, when the organism participates in behavior that facilitates oxytocin release. The oxytocin release activates oxytocin receptors which then strengthen the network’s reaction to the stimulus. When this stimulus is another organism, this means that the network entices a stronger bonding relationship between the two organisms. In their research, they found that increases in concentrations of oxytocin receptors in non-monogamous meadow voles actually made them monogamous, confirming the importance of oxytocin receptors in strengthening the bond between a specific pair. Intimate situations with another organisms provided the necessary means of facilitating connection strength.


Not only is this neuronal network interconnected like a quintessential network, it also displays the characteristics of weak and strong ties. As two organisms bond, it gets more and more difficult for other organisms to excite the same pairbonding network in which the activation of oxytocin receptors caused the initial pairbonding. As the pairbonding strengthens between a couple develops further and further, it gets harder and harder for them to pairbond with some one else in their place. For one organism, the ties in this network are weak. For another organism, the ties in this network are strong and get stronger still. The strength of the connections in the network depends on the incoming information: its source and contexts. The strength of the signal depends on the other organism, and the ability of this signal to modify the network depends on the context of the contact between the organisms. This biological example of a network that utilizes its own application of strong and weak ties to directly affect everyday behavior makes it more apparent that we come in to contact with and are greatly utilize networks every day.


Alexander G. Ophir, Ana Gessel, Da-Jiang Zheng, Steven M. Phelps
Oxytocin receptor density is associated with male mating tactics and social monogamy
Hormones and Behavior, Volume 61, Issue 3, March 2012, Pages 445–453
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