The study, which was led by Garret D. Stuber, PhD, and Jenna A. McHenry, PhD, found that a cluster of neurons in the hypothalamus of the brain impact how mice are drawn to potential mates.
Called the medial preoptic area (or mPOA), the neurons are known to affect the social and reproductive behaviour in vertebrate animals.
However, Stuber and McHenry found that the connection between the mPOA and the ventral tegmental area (VTA) of the brain in mice could be used to explain how we are attracted to the opposite sex.
The results found that when female mice were exposed to the odour of male mouse urine, the mPOA neurotensin neurons were more active.
If the females had high estrogen or estrogen and progesterone levels, this activity was even greater, Science Daily explains.
McHenry said: “This suggests that certain neurons in the brain may be specialised to prefer social rewards over nonsocial rewards, and that the processing of social cues is sensitive to circulating hormones.”
Stuber added: “On the whole, the data suggest that these mPOA neurons help drive social attraction toward a potential mate.”
In addition to giving us more insight into human attraction, the findings could also help us to understand more about certain mental disorders that affect social motivation.
To read the full study please click here.