When hurt, rodents may console each other: The secret to empathetic behavior lies in the hormone oxytocin

The secret to empathetic behavior lies in the hormone oxytocin, which promotes maternal bonding and feelings of love among humans, too.  

Dogs, dolphins and elephants are known to show empathy when a loved one is in pain, and now researchers have found the first consoling behavior in a rodent, known as the prairie vole.

Researchers say the findings, published Thursday in the US journal Science, could help scientists better understand human disorders such as autism and schizophrenia, in which a person’s ability to sense the emotions of others is disrupted.

The secret to empathetic behavior lies in the hormone oxytocin, which promotes maternal bonding and feelings of love among humans, too.

Scientists at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University created an experiment in which they isolated prairie voles — dark rodents which mate in long-term monogamous pairs and raise their offspring together — from others they knew.