"Girl time" may be more important than you think. Research from Georgia State University finds same-sex social interactions among women to be more rewarding than males, and females are more sensitive to the rewarding actions of oxytocin. Oxytocin is a powerful hormone that acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. It influences social interaction and sexual reproduction, playing a role in behaviors from maternal attachment to an infant and milk release to empathy, generosity, and orgasm.
“Recognizing 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,” said Dr. Elliott Albers, director of the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience and Regents’ Professor of Neuroscience at Georgia State, who led the research team.
The research team discovered that while OT 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 OT than males. The team also 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.
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.