Friday, January 30, 2009

Love as Dangerous Chemical Imbalance

Would you rather have a love potion that made you more likely to become attached to someone else, or a love vaccine that stopped you from falling in love with the wrong person?” - John Tierney, New York Times, blogging hilariously about the possibility of a love vaccine

A neuroscientist at Emory University’s Yerkes National Primate Research Centers published a study in the January issue of Nature. He posits that pair-bonding in humans (as in voles, one of the few other monogamous mammals) can be enhanced or suppressed by tinkering with brain hormones like oxytocin and vasopressin.

Tierney interviews Dr. Larry Young and reports:

When a female prairie vole’s brain is artificially infused with oxytocin, a hormone that produces some of the same neural rewards as nicotine and cocaine, she’ll quickly become attached to the nearest male. A related hormone, vasopressin, creates urges for bonding and nesting when it is injected in male voles (or naturally activated by sex). After Dr. Young found that male voles with a genetically limited vasopressin response were less likely to find mates, Swedish researchers reported that men with a similar genetic tendency were less likely to get married.
Young is looking for drugs to improve the social skills of people with autism and schizophrenia, but can imagine applications of drugs in conjunction with marital therapy.

I agree with Tierney that, “Love is indeed a many-splendored thing, but sometimes we all need to tie ourselves to the mast.” That’s why, for example, I don’t date writers anymore.


  1. that prairie vole picture is SO CUTE.

  2. Isn't it? I feel so privileged to witness this special moment in two prairie voles' lives.

  3. ivy you are a scream!



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