Sunday, March 1, 2009

From affiliative behaviors to romantic feelings: Arole of nanopeptides

This article focuses on the implications of two small nine amino acid poly-peptide chains called oxytocin and vasopressin. It relates the formation of social bonds to the actions of these nanopeptides in the brain. The first type of social bond referred to in the article is the mother-infant bond. It was found that almost all mamals share a simular type of attatchment between a mother and its child. The chemical responsible for the formation of this bond was found to be oxytocin. The hormones estradiol and progesterone along with oxytocin are released durring "vaginocervical stimulation" or, in other words, labor. Oxytocin is also released when a mother lactates, further reinforcing the bond.

However, a father figure is often needed in the life of a young mammal, and since giving birth is specific to females, there must be a way to keep the male around in some cases. This can perhaps be seen most clearly in prairie voles. These rodents are known to form such strong bonds with the opposite sex, that even if one partner died, the other would not find another mate. Studies have shown that the chemicals responsible for this are oxytocin and vasopressin. Vasopressin is more prevalent in males, where as oxytocin is more prevalent in females. Furthermore, studies done on human subjects have shown simular results. When a person was asked to talk about their first date with their significant other, there was found to be an elevated level of oxytocin in their blood.

Another interesting finding is that the formation of these bonds, through oxytocin, also triggers dopamine to be released. Dopamine is the reward system in the body, and its production is commonly stimulated by addictive drugs. So, "love" may actually be addicting.

I found this article very interesting in that it explained something so emotionally confusing and seeming abstract in a concrete and scientific way. When one thinks of love, poetry and heart shaped boxes of chocolate usually come to mind, but never scientific journal articles. The article really shines light on why we feel how we feel about the people we love, and also explains why some people may have difficulty forming the social bonds in which these chemicals play a role. Its's also kind of funny telling your girlfriend that she stimulates an increase in your oxytocin receptors.

Debiec, Jack. "From affiliative behaviors to romantic feelings: A role of nanopeptides." FEBS Letters (2007): 2580-586

1 comment:

  1. So do you think you could induce love by injecting someone with these chemicals? A love potion?

    You might want to check out these articles:
    Bartels & Zeki 2000 The Neural Basis of Romantic Love. Neuroreport 11:3829-3834
    Bartels & Zeki 2004 The neural correlates of romantic and maternal love. Neuroreport 21:1155-1166