Before I even question the relevance of silly studies, I want to discuss if researchers really have lives. It has become apparent that many researches have a) too much spare time b) slightly odd grants/ funding c) experimented with mind altering chemicals during there misspent youth or d) spent much too much time alone with single cell organisms. If you do not believe me, check out some of these studies: “The Effects of Country Music on Suicide;” “Chickens Prefer Beautiful Humans;””Safe and Painless Manipulation of Penile Zipper Entrapment” (this study followed a night of studying Does Semen Have Antidepressant Properties?–well, I will not go any further here) You get the idea. Scientist have active minds and time to experiment. (check out the Ig Nobel awards for more)
Maybe it is the long hours with single cell organisms, or just human nature, but many studies focus on love and sex. As humans, we write about love, sing about love, ponder love in philosophical discussions, and we scientifically study love. A modern day anthropologist was once asked by a Hopi Native American, ‘why most songs were about love?’ In his culture they mostly sang about rain, because this is what they needed most and desired greatly. It seems he answered his own question without realizing it. This brings me to the real reason for this blog. Is love as easy as a chemical reaction or something much bigger?
A recent study breaks love down to a biochemical process, of oxytocin and vasopressin manipulating our poor helpless brains: “Scientists are finding that love is down to a chemical addiction between people.” The study of prairie voles’ sex life exemplified the effects of oxytocin and vasopressin by blocking the hormones.
“When prairie voles have sex, two hormones called oxytocin and vasopressin are released. If the release of these hormones is blocked, prairie-voles’ sex becomes a fleeting affair, like that normally enjoyed by their rakish montane cousins. Conversely, if prairie voles are given an injection of the hormones, but prevented from having sex, they will still form a preference for their chosen partner. In other words, researchers can make prairie voles fall in love — or whatever the vole equivalent of this is — with an injection.”….”Sex stimulates the release of vasopressin and oxytocin in people, as well as voles, though the role of these hormones in the human brain is not yet well understood.”
“Helen Fisher, a researcher at Rutgers University, and the author of a new book on love, suggests it comes in three flavors: lust, romantic love and long-term attachment.” Despite Dr Fisher’s reservations, might drugs also help people to fall in love, or perhaps fix broken relationships? Probably not. Dr Pfaus says that drugs may enhance portions of the ‘love experience’ but fall short of doing the whole job because of their specificity. And if a couple fall out of love, drugs are unlikely to help either. Dr Fisher does not believe that the brain could overlook distaste for someone — even if a couple in trouble could inject themselves with huge amounts of dopamine.
However, she does think that administering serotonin can help someone get over a bad love affair faster. She also suggests it is possible to trick the brain into feeling romantic love in a long-term relationship by doing novel things with your partner. Any arousing activity drives up the level of dopamine and can therefore trigger feelings of romance as a side effect. Romantics, of course, have always known that love is a special sort of chemistry. Scientists are now beginning to show how true this is.” http://www.oxytocin.org/oxytoc/love-science.html
I argue there is so much more to love than hormones and chemical reactions. As humans we tend to analyze and over think situations, especially love. People discuss the conflict between their heart and their head. So I counter the studies, saying love is far more than a simple chemical reaction, even if they do play a role. In my research aka odd dating life, I found love in anything but predictable. Throughout history love is described as multidimensional, messy, complicated, and in other more colorful ways. Love is in our hearts, soul, mind, spirit, kidneys….Well, we are discovering love is stored in many cells throughout our bodies– some cells that have no receptors for oxytocin or other chemicals, so it can not be only a chemical addiction.
Note: Studies attempt to explain emotions and memories stored at a cellular level in our bodies. A few of these studies arose from organ transplant patients that developed a few personality traits of the donors such as food cravings, artistic ability, increased libido, etc. http://www.paulpearsall.com/info/press/3.html