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See Inside November/December 2011

How Partners Prevent Addiction

Prairie voles in monogamous relationships respond less to drugs



Terry Whittaker/Alamy

Strong interpersonal relationships have been shown to ward off drug addiction, and new clues as to why come from prairie voles—rodents that form long-term, monogamous bonds with their mates. Kimberly A. Young of Florida State University and her colleagues found that pair-bonded voles responded less than unattached, sexually naive voles to the rewarding properties of amphetamine. The drug boosted dopamine, a brain chemical involved in pleasure and motivation, equivalently, but pair-bonded voles had fewer receptors ready to receive the dopamine signal. Such evidence that social attachments alter the brain’s response to drugs may spur new ideas for addiction treatment.

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