What We Can Learn About Heartbreak From Voles

Voles are similar to field mice and one of the few mammals that practice monogamy. Pixabay

Turns out, you can learn a lot about heartbreak from animals, specifically voles. Looking like a cross between a hamster and a mouse, these small, furry and cute animals are monogamous and have something called love.

“In mammals, only about 5 percent of species formed these long-term bonds. It’s kind of rare,” Larry Young, an Emory University researcher who has spent a lot of time studying voles in the lab to understand what the neurobiology behind this social behavior is, said. As it turns out, these animals have something akin to love.

“Within a day after they mate, they then prefer to spend their time just sitting next to each other, touching each other — what we call ‘huddling.’ So just sitting next to each other, facing in the same direction, and perfectly still,” Young added.

But if voles have their own version of love, then they also have some form of heartbreak, and per Young, it’s very sad.

“A vole that has been with a partner and then you take the partner away, if you put them in a beaker of water for a few minutes, they tend to just float. If you hold them up by their tail, they just hang there. They show the signs of despair,” the researcher explained, saying that voles without their partner would basically just give up on life.

Thankfully, they have a cure for heartbreak: oxytocin.

“If at the moment that the partner goes away, we infuse a little bit of oxytocin into the brain, it’s as if they’ve never lost their partner at all,” Young said.

And it’s not just voles that produce oxytocin because humans produce it too. Can it cure heartbreak for us as well? Unfortunately, no. It's it is much more complicated than that.

“I think that love probably is fairly uniquely human. It’s [because of] our cortical capacity, our intellectual capacity. Not only to feel that strong drive, but to really speak the language of romance, [and] to think about the future, to think about abstract things,” Young noted.

So no, there’s not a quick solution to heartbreak. Good going though, voles.

vole-426793_1920 Voles are similar to field mice and one of the few mammals that practice monogamy. Pixabay

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