Larry Young has written a rather ambitious essay for Nature that skims over the prairie vole/AVPR1A research, breasts as erotic objects, and evidence of dopamine-based mother love on its way to a “view of love as an emergent property of a cocktail of ancient neuropeptides and neurotransmitters.” Young then asks whether “recent advances in the biology of pair bonding mean it won’t be long before an unscrupulous suitor could slip a pharmaceutical ‘love potion’ in our drink.”
Unlikely? Maybe – but his point that antidepressants like Prozac influence the same neurotransmitters implicated in love is a good one. There’s no clean distinction between pharmaceutical neurochemistry and a patient’s relationships. Whatever you’re taking, whomever you’re dating – it’s all blurring together in your brain.
In today’s NYT, John Tierney takes it a step farther:
the really good news, as I see it, is that we might reverse-engineer an anti-love potion, a vaccine preventing you from making an infatuated ass of yourself. Although this love vaccine isn’t mentioned in Dr. Young’s essay, when I raised the prospect he agreed it could also be in the offing.
A love vaccine? Is love really that bad? Apparently so – on his blog, Tierney goes on to quote Helen Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers, about the manifest dangers of casual sex!
I’ve been hearing about such dangers since high school sex ed class, but this is a new one on me:
It’s possible to fall in love with someone just because you had sex with them, because with orgasm you get a flood of oxytocin and vasopressin that can cause you to feel attached to the person. Casual sex is not always casual. Someone might be happy, with a lovely wife or husband, and then this brain system for romantic love or attachment is triggered by someone totally inappropriate. You acquire all the characteristics of an addict. You come obsessed; you distort reality; you do dangerous things; you crave the person, you have withdrawal symptoms.
Wow, love sounds so. . . frightening. You don’t want that to happen to you, do you, kids?