Love and Suspicion

Love, suspicion, and more chocolate. Notes from the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting:
Love. Brain imaging has to be interpreted with some degree of care; the relationship between brain and mind is only beginning to emerge. With that caution, some interesting results. The “madly in love” infatuation phase doesn’t actually seem to involve the emotional brain. Instead, it heavily involves the motivation and reward areas of the brain (dopamine heaven). It’s only later, as a relationship matures, that the regions of the brain associated with emotion become more involved. (Personal note: This supports a belief I’ve long held, I’m sure in common with many readers, that the strongest long-term relationships start off as gradually-deepening friendships.) Said another way, the wild infatuation phase has much more in common with powerful drives like hunger and thirst than with the complexities and satisfactions of love in the long term. An aside to gratify a certain segment of the SBAA membership, the same regions activated when madly in love – the right caudate nucleus and the right ventral tegmentum – are also activated by chocolate.
Suspicion. Oxytocin is the “love and trust” hormone, strongly associated with positive interpersonal feelings. It’s released in floods after childbirth, for example. With a pretty obvious evolutionary utility, when women ovulate hormone levels of progesterone rise, and it turns out progesterone is an oxytocin inhibitor. For ovulating women, this means highest fertility = lowest oxytocin = greatest levels of suspicion about that guy claiming to be your One True Love.
Atkins diet ages the brain. Two sets of researchers have found that diets rich in fruits and vegetables (with their naturally occuring antioxidents) protect the brain from aging. Hard-core Atkins followers, who skip vegetables and especially fruit for meat, may be more likely to experience cognitive problems as they age.
Alcohol. Karolinska Institute researchers found (with rats) that alcohol does kill brain cells, but at moderate dosages new cells are born in the same regions. Only high-dosage alcohol causes a permanent loss.
But before you get too excited by all the new neurons you’re growing by knocking down a brewski, know that for several days after we die the brain continues to generate new neurons. Intriguingly for runners, this is apparently because the brain releases growth-stimulating chemicals in response to lack of oxygen.
(All results reported in New Scientist, 22 November.) (11/26)

Please follow and like us:

Related Posts

Chocolate, Testosterone, and Women

Aspirin, Ibprofin, and Pregnancy

Who Decides to Have a Baby

Love and Testosterone