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Biochemistry of Love

Peggy LaCerra has studied cognitive neuroscience to develop her theories about the evolution of the human mind. As mind and brain studies continue, new information is coming forth about little-researched emotions such as love. In an article in the latest Discover(1), Steven Johnson writes about how studies have shown that a brain peptide called oxytocin may contribute towards feelings of love and romantic relationships.

Neuroscientist Sue Carter examined the brain of prairie voles, a rodent species known for their unusually monogamous couplings, and found when they were injected with oxytocin they bonded more rapidly. But when the natural oxytocin in their brains was blocked, the voles coupled indiscriminately.

There is some evidence that a similar chemical process is going in humans, and enhanced levels of oxytocin have been noted during such bonding experiences as childbirth, breast feeding and sexual relations. "Some scientists believe oxytocin works in tandem with the body's natural opiates, with oxytocin triggering the drive for social attachment, and the optoids supplying the warm fuzzy, feeling of being in the company of loved ones," Johnson writes. It is fascinating to consider that something as elusive as love, which has often been placed in the heart region, may have a strong biochemical basis in the brain.

--L.L.(2)

1. http://www.discover.com/current_issue/index.html
2. http://archive.coasttocoastam.com/info/about_lex.html

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