• Posted: Feb 16, 2009 23:40:49
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The deeper one looks into the mysterious workings of nature the less certain evidence is that conscious choice is anything other than an illusion. Take, for instance, a story published by the Associated Press this week describing recent research into the neurochemistry of kissing.
The urge to mate is apparently mediated by testosterone in both males and females, apprehension or stress by cortisol, and long term attachment by oxytocin. Wendy Hill, dean of the faculty and a professor of neuroscience at Lafayette College, told a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science last Friday that her research indicates kissing lowers cortisol in both males and females, elevates testosterone in females, and elevates oxytocin in males. She suggests chemicals in saliva may function to help in the assessment of a potential mate. I suggested something similar a few months back within the post Taste Test.
It has been known for quite some time that cortisol and oxytocin play roles in human metabolic and birth processes respectively. What is relatively new is the discovery of their role in human emotions. One can now ask is "falling in love" really a precipitous drop in cortisol? Do marriages begin to fail when male partners are no longer successful at stimulating a drop in their female partner's cortisol? And is female "bitchiness" actually the telltale sign of rising levels of cortisol? Similarly, do males begin to wander when their female partners begin failing to stimulate elevation in their oxytocin? Would more kissing help keep males interested? And, would appropriately prescribed medications eventually be able to save a troubled marriage?
One can't help wondering: if nature creates the feelings and cues for long term pair bonding and propagation of the species, do the people involved actually have any say in the matter? Or, are we largely, as in so many aspects of our lives, just along for the ride?
Those of us who think about such things will be eagerly awaiting more news from the frontiers of scientific research on aspects of this question?
Finally, what does all this have to do with the picture above? Males will perhaps more easily get the association. Fascinating curves. Dangerously prickly.
Sunday, January 18th, 2009
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