Biochemistry Of Friendship
Updated: Jun 20
Another day goes by in lockdown. I have heard that an empty mind is the devil's workshop. Keeping that in view, I have developed various mobile and immobile activities during the lockdown. Tv shows, movies, reading, golf practice, writing, blogging, using social media, praying, and online web surfing are a few to name.
This morning however I am keenly inquisitive.
Early in the morning I got a call from an everlasting friend of mine living continents away. We shared chapters of gossip & bundles of laughter. Talking to him put me at soulful ease. I wonder what that feeling is? Why is it so comforting?
Curiosity kills the cat as they say. I began to look for the meaning of friendship anew. So much is said and written about friendship:
”Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together.”- Woodrow T. Wilson
“ Friendship is not about whom you know the longest. It is about who came and never left.” - Paulo Coelho.
“ Your heart and my heart are very very old friends.”- Hafiz
“ One who has good friends doesn’t need a mirror.”- Rumi
This time I am not looking for an answer in literature and conventional wisdom.
I will knock at the gates of science to find out the basis of friendship there.
Does Rendezvous with a dear friend integrate some biological or a psychological process that leads us to the cradle of fulfillment? What is Friendship? Is friendship a social bond or biochemical process. .
This research introduced me to ethology. I have noticed the word “ology” has a special connection with education. Whenever I have come across this word it taught me something. Usually this word follows a bunch of strange words, eg; psych-ology, the-ology and so many other ology-s. Today’s word is ethology.
Ethology is the study of human/animal behavior and social organizations from a biological perspective. Ethology led me to neuroethology. Scientifically it is proven that there is a neural, cognitive and biochemical basis of friendship. Recognition is one sociobiological pattern that plays an integral role in forming and maintaining the friendship.
Different animals use different biochemistry to acquire recognition. For instance, dolphins recognize signature sounds to differentiate with each other in the pod. In one pod there are twelve dolphins. Each dolphin develops its unique sound called a signature whistle. Frogs use scents to recognize each other through their nares. Humans learn unique recognition cues. Cues are specified sights, sounds, smell, touch and taste etc, cue recognition is noticing the cue. Cue recognition is attributed as social information. Humans however usually use face recognition as social information.
There are findings that such social information triggers reward-related areas of the brain including the anterior cingulate cortex, orbitofrontal cortex, the nucleus accumbens and the caudate nucleus.
Instead of spending more time to discuss recognition mechanisms we move forward to find out what role recognition cues play in biochemical regulation of friendship.
The system of biochemistry of friendship involves regulators like dopamine(kind of a transmitter), Oxytocin (otherwise known as cuddle hormone), endorphins(some kind of a postman), dopamine, serotonin and hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis. (kind of an admin). This complex biochemical process involves hormonal and peptidergic apparatus that adjusts close connections in humans. As I understand it, most of our relationships, filled with both love and hate, are based upon this biochemical process. And oxytocin is a major stimulator in friendship. It functions primarily in individual recognition and its memory.
I got drowned into medical books, medical journals, and dictionaries to understand what in god's name these pages mean. The quarantine is so antagonizing that I preferred researching through a draconian language of medical science. I do give great credit to Doctors to survive such lifeless vocabulary to give life to others. I salute you all in the medical profession. Your life is hard but your study is harder.
Now that we have attained certification from labs that friendships is biological reality, we can easily return to art and literature that glorifies friendship much better than science.
I again want to kiss some poetic verses on friendship.
Golfer, Author, Poet, Entrepreneur, Blogger, Wanderer.
“On the Aims and Methods of Ethology” by Nikolaas Tinbergen.
“The neuroethology of friendship”- Lauren J.N. Brent, Steve W.C. Chang, [...], and Michael L. Platt. December 2013.
Distinct Value Signals In Anterior and Posterior Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex
Journal of Neuroscience by Dr. David V. Smith at all. February 2010.