Brain Changes: How Your Significant Other Ruins Your High



posted on April 21, 2017, at 11:59 pm E.T. by Gabby Vargas

Have you ever wondered why it feels so good to sit in pajamas with morning breath next to the one you love? Why binge-watching Netflix sounds so much better with them than alone? Why you feel nearly addicted to your significant other?


If any of your answers to the above questions were ‘yes,’ then you’ve already felt the impact of a pair-bonding experience. That is, a strong monogamous sexual relationship. If you’re having trouble thinking of that person, worry not, because I’m about to tell you some hopeful news.


Neuroscience tells us that having a social bond can impact your brain in a way that makes even the most addictive, pleasurable things, have less rewarding properties. In a lab, researchers used prairie voles (furry cousins of mice) to model the pair-bonding experience. Male voles were either caged with another male and kept celibate, while other male voles were placed with females to get jiggy. After two weeks of being caged together (and getting laid), the voles were pair-bonded. That’s right folks, even rodents are capable of commitment (cough, cough, fellas).


The researchers then gave both groups amphetamine (the drug in Adderall) for several days in the same room. They found that when given the choice to freely roam, the celibate voles chose to hang out in the room they were used to getting drugs in. The pair-bonded voles though, would spend around the same amount of time in the drug-room and the non-drug room.

frightened dog

That means that they roamed back and forth between the rooms like nothing was different… except for the fact that one of the rooms should’ve reminded them of an extremely addictive drug’s high…

So there we have it, friends, the effects of monogamy on the brain. If you thought it was your nagging mom that screws up your high, think again, because your brain actually changes when you’re in a committed relationship. You might think you’re avoiding drugs now because your lover takes up all your free time, but now there is biological evidence that supports that your relationship changes the allure of drugs.

friendly hamster

Appreciate your partner yet? You can thank dopamine for that.


Dopamine is a small brain molecule involved in your natural motivation and reward system. It gets released when you feel rewarded, like spending quality time with your significant other. Think of dopamine as a key that is constantly working to unlock receptors in your brain and cause activity.


The release of dopamine keeps you interested in things, and wanting more. For some, it’s their lover, for others, it is drugs. Sometimes dopamine has to compete with other keys (i.e. drugs). The monogamous voles freely roamed between the rooms because there was enough dopamine from their loved ones to block amphetamine out from their receptors.

So if you’re looking to stay focused, one way might be to find yourself a bae… or should I say, drug-repellant?

bae: (b)efore (a)nyone (e)lse/your significant other


Bibliography/References:Buzzfeed Science. (n.d.). Retrieved March 10, 2017, from BuzzFeed website:

Two is Better Than One – How Your Significant Other Can Change Your Brain!
Authors/Article Title/Journal: Yan Liu, Kimberly A. Young, J. Thomas Curtis, Brandon J. Aragona, and Zuoxin Wang, Social Bonding Decreases the Rewarding Properties of Amphetamine through a Dopamine D1 Receptor-Mediated Mechanism, The Journal of Neuroscience

Liu, Y., Young, K. A., Curtis, J. T., Aragona, B. J., & Wang, Z. (2011). Social Bonding Decreases the Rewarding Properties of Amphetamine through a Dopamine D1 Receptor-Mediated Mechanism. The Journal of Neuroscience, 31(22), 7960-7966.

Sanusi, H. (2016, February 23). The sexy ‘Work’ video by Rihanna featuring Drake and its many reactions. Retrieved March 10, 2017, from The Net website: the-sexy-work-video-by-rihanna-featuring-drake-and-its-many-reactions/

Snyder-Mackler, N. (2015, December 15). It’s not you, it’s my genes: Sexual fidelity tradeoffs in prairie voles. Retrieved March 10, 2017, from The Molecular Ecologist website: its-not-you-its-my-genes-sexual-fidelity-tradeoffs-in-prairie-voles/

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