"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."