The role of oxytocin on peaceful associations and sociality in mammals

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There is currently substantial evidence indicating that oxytocin, a hypothalamus neuropeptide, modulates many forms of social behaviour and cognition in both human and non-human animals. The vast majority of animal research, however, has concentrated on maternal attachment and reproductive pair-bonds. In order to understand the neurochemical foundations of peaceful associations and sociality, oxytocin’s contribution to other types of social bonds, as well as to individual variation in sociality, should also be explored. Here, we summarise the most current studies that have investigated oxytocin’s role in regulating stable peaceful associations not directly related to mating. We also provide an overview on oxytocin’s role in support of specific social structures, and propose a novel research approach to evaluate the relationship between individual variation in social tendencies and variation in the oxytociergic system. We conclude by discussing avenues of future investigation in the biological substrates of sociality.

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