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"Several billion trillion tons of superhot exploding hydrogen nuclei 
rose slowly above the horizon and managed to look small, cold and 
slightly damp."

- Douglas Adams, "Life, the Universe and Everything," p.51.



At 04:26 PM 1/7/2009, you wrote:
>Nature moves down one or two notches in my estimation. --PG
>
>http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/health/7815095.stm
>
>Published: 2009/01/07 18:04:17 GMT
>
>Is love just a chemical cocktail?
>
>By Pallab Ghosh
>BBC News science correspondent
>
>It is said that love is a drug. But is it just a drug?
>
>That is the contention of Larry Young, a professor of neuroscience 
>at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
>
>Writing in the respected scientific journal Nature, Professor Young 
>argues that love can be explained by a series of neurochemical 
>events that are happening in specific brain areas.
>
>If that is true then, he says, one would no longer have to rely on 
>oysters or chocolates to create a loving mood.
>
>Instead, it will be possible for scientists to develop aphrodisiacs 
>- chemicals that would make people fall in love with the first person they see.
>
>And for those who have fallen in love with someone they shouldn't 
>have fallen in love with, an antidote to unrequited love.
>
>There is even the prospect of a genetic "love test" to assess 
>whether two potential love birds are predisposed to a happy married life.
>
>No poetry
>
>Poets would have us believe that love is one of those things that 
>are beyond understanding. But that concept is anathema to Professor Young.
>
>"I'm not sure we'll be able to understand it fully," he said.
>
>"But my belief is that our emotions have evolved from behaviours and 
>emotions that are in the animal kingdom.
>
>"I don't think that the way a mother loves her baby is that 
>different to a mother's love in a chimpanzees or a rhesus monkeys - 
>or even a rat."
>
>In animals, scientists have observed that a chemical called oxytocin 
>is involved in developing a bond between a mother and her young.
>
>Professor Young believes it is very likely that a similar process is 
>going on in humans.
>
>"It's just that when we experience these emotions they are so rich 
>we can't imagine that they are just a series of chemical events," he said.
>
>But even if that is true of maternal love, is romantic love simply 
>down to a squirt of oxytocin and a few other love chemicals at a timely moment?
>
>Professor Young thinks it might.
>
>Bonding
>
>Researchers have found that oxytocin is involved the bonding of male 
>and the female prairie voles which like humans form an intense bond 
>with each other that lasts for a very long time
>
>And there have been studies in humans that show that oxytocin 
>increases trust - the ability to read the emotions of others.
>
>So, Professor Young argues that it makes sense that the same sort of 
>molecule might be involved in strengthening the bond between individuals.
>
>He believes there are other chemicals involved in strengthening that 
>bond - it is just a matter of doing the research and finding out 
>which ones they are.
>
>"I'm sure that we are just beginning to tap the surface," he said.#
>
>"There are hundreds of signalling molecules in the brain - they all 
>act in different brain areas.
>
>"I think one day we will have a much better understanding of how all 
>these chemicals interact and act in specific brain areas that have 
>specific function that give rise to these complex emotions."
>
>Role of upbringing
>
>Having put poets firmly in their place, Professor Young will have to 
>take on the arguments of scientific colleagues who might take issue 
>with his view that love is all down to chemicals.
>
>Surely upbringing and psychology play a part?
>
>"Nurture has an important part to play," he conceeds.
>
>"But they way nurture works is through changing neurochemistry.
>
>"We know from studies in humans that women that have experienced 
>abuse or neglect early in their life have decreased levels of 
>oxytocin in their brain.
>
>"So I totally agree that our experiences have a huge impact on our 
>ability to form relationships - but that impact occurs through 
>changes in neurochemistry and gene expression."
>
>Manipulation
>
>So, if love really is just a complex chemical reaction, could that 
>most powerful of human emotions be manipulated? Professor Young thinks so.
>
>"Oxytocin increases eye gaze, increases our ability to recognise 
>emotions in others," he said.
>
>"It may actually enhance our ability to form relationships, and so 
>it is a very real possibility that something like oxytocin could be 
>used in conjunction with marital therapies to bring back that spark."
>
>There are already perfumes on the market containing octocin, but 
>Professor Young believes the levels are too low to be an effective aphrodisiac.
>
>"But I think in the future we can develop drugs that readily pass 
>into the brain and can target certain brain areas that could do this," he said.
>
>Professor Nick Bostrom, director of Oxford University's Future of 
>Humanity Institute, is not entirely convinced by Professor Young's theory.
>
>He said "It is very interesting to explore the neuro-chemical bases 
>of romantic attachment, but we shouldn't think that this perspective 
>on its own provides a full understanding of what love is.
>
>"There are also evolutionary, psychological, sociological, 
>phenomenological and humanistic perspectives that offer important insights."
>
>However, he does believe it will become increasingly possible to 
>modulate the neurological mechanisms that do play a role in romantic 
>attachment.
>
>"Used wisely, such pharmacology could enhance human experience and 
>mitigate unnecessary suffering.
>"However, this kind of manipulation would raise a thicket of ethical 
>and cultural issues, which would need to be carefully explored."