Future In Our Hands

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Expert explores chemistry of love

Expert explores chemistry of love

Couple generic

Love can be put down to an increase in hormones, scientists say

The science behind mother and baby bonding and sexual chemistry between partners is to be explained in a St Valentine’s Eve lecture. Edinburgh brain expert Professor Gareth Leng will examine how the hormone oxytocin helps forge permanent ties between lovers, after the initial rush of excitement of a new relationship.

The hormone works by “changing the wiring” of billions of brain circuits.

Prof Leng is a neuroscientist at the University of Edinburgh.

Maternal behaviour

He will provide a breakdown of the brain’s functions in relation to love during a lecture in London on Friday, 13 February entitled “How does a brain fall in love?”

According to Prof Leng, oxytocin helps bond a mother and her baby and is also released during both childbirth and orgasm.

He said it acts like a “master switch” in the brain, opening up new patterns of interaction between nerve cells.

How a single, albeit prolonged, exposure to oxytocin can produce such profound and prolonged changes in behaviour is not known, but we are trying to find answers
Prof Leng

He also claims that people who have fewer of the special brain receptors needed to take up the oxytocin may have difficulties in making successful permanent bonds with their partners.

Research has found that the hormone, which is released into the brain in large amounts during labour and during sexual activity, is an important trigger of maternal behaviour in animals.

Its crucial role in sexual bonding has been observed by North American scientists studying the prairie vole.

Professor Leng said: “The prairie vole mates for life and this life-long bond is established over the 48 hours of intense mating activity that is its first experience of sex.

“During this time, large amounts of oxytocin are released within the brain. Prairie voles have oxytocin receptors in different parts of their brains, and scientists have found that blocking these receptors prevents the formation of pair-bonding in females.

“How a single, albeit prolonged, exposure to oxytocin can produce such profound and prolonged changes in behaviour is not known, but we are trying to find answers.

“Understanding this process is essential to understanding how drugs can influence mood and behaviour, for good or bad.”

June 30, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Shopping urges ‘spotted in brain’

Shopping urges ‘spotted in brain’

Shoppers

Volunteers were scanned as they looked at desirable goods

The moment when a shopper decides to buy can now be clearly seen on a brain scan, thanks to a US study.Volunteers were scanned as they looked at desirable goods and their prices, and the most active brain areas recorded.

The results suggest different parts of the brain anticipate having the item, and feel the ‘pain’ of preparing to part with money.

The Stanford University study was published in the Neuron journal.

The experiment used an MRI scanner set up to detect brain activity.

Deal or no deal

Pictures of goods such as boxes of chocolates were shown, then a few seconds later, the price flashed up on the screen, before the volunteers were asked to decide whether or not to buy.

The timing meant that the mental battle between desire for the object, and caution about spending, was clearly shown.

This finding has implications for understanding behavioural anomalies, such as consumers’ growing tendency to overspend…when purchasing with credit cards
Stanford University researchers

If the volunteer wanted the product, a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens lit up.

Then, when the price appeared, a high price activated a part called the insula, and deactivated other parts.

In this way, the researchers were able to predict the outcome.

The researchers said the results clearly demonstrated the truth of the principle that purchasing is a mental ‘trade-off’ between the pleasure of acquisition and the pain of paying.

Card trick

They said that the study could reveal how credit cards ‘trick’ the brain into buying more.

They wrote: “This finding has implications for understanding behavioural anomalies, such as consumers’ growing tendency to overspend and under save when purchasing with credit cards rather than cash.”

Dr Alain Dagher, from the Montreal Neurological Institute, said that the brain mechanisms in action were evolved to suit more primitive uses.

He said: “Human financial behaviour is often seemingly irrational, a fact that provides employment for advertisers, casino workers, insurance salesmen, and economists.”

He said that it might be possible to understand more about compulsive shoppers and gamblers by spotting problems in the brain areas revealed by the scans.

 

June 30, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment