ABORTUS MUTANS AND THE BIOLOGY OF LOVE
“If we want our species to survive, if we are to find meaning in life, if we want to save the world and every sentient being that inhabits it, love is the one and only answer.” (Einstein, Letter To His Daughter).
“Lovers ever run before the clock’” (The Merchant of Venice – Act 2, Scene 6)
“The need for love lies at the very foundation of human existence.” – Dalai Lama
“Where there is love there is life.” – Mahatma Gandhi
There may be no topic more written about, or been the subject of the arts than love. Love touches all of our lives in its numerous forms from passion to childcare. There are two violently strong drives in humans and most creatures: sexual gratification and reproduction. The extremes that human behavior goes to in order achieve both is truly spectacular.
Many see love as the solution to the meaning of life. Love has given the lucky the dizziest moments of their lives. Pure aliveness. Love is perhaps the most intoxicating drug on the planet.
The quotes above cite Einstein writing to his daughter that love is the answer to the survival of our species, Shakespear writing about the ticking clock of love, and Gandhi connecting love to life itself. All were correct, but not for the reasons that they imagined were correct. Here is the brutal reality. Love is hardwired biology deeply and perhaps exclusively tied to reproduction and preservation of the species. Love is driven by molecules surging through our bodies.
Love appears to occur in three phases: lust, attraction, and attachment. Each phase is driven by its own set of hormones stemming from the brain or the sex organs.
Lust is driven by the universal desire for sexual gratification. The ejaculation of a teaspoon of liquid or that inimitable breathless moaning. Freud assigned sex the highest of human drivers, and that all dysfunctions derived from sexual malfunctions.
“Nothing makes sense except in the light of evolution.” The evolutionary basis for lust stems from our primary need to reproduce, a need shared among all organisms. This is the primary driver of all creatures.
The testes and ovaries secrete the sex hormones testosterone and estrogen, driving sexual desire. B and C: Dopamine, oxytocin, and vasopressin are all made in the hypothalamus, a region of the brain that controls many vital functions as well as emotion. D: Several of the regions of the brain that affect love. Lust and attraction shut off the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which includes rational behavior.
There are also three levels of motors that drive these three phases of love — blood hormones, pheromones, and genes. These molecular motors are the sharp spurs that goad our behaviors and decisions. They occur widely in different combinations across all taxa.
Hormones bind to tissue receptors with high specificity and act in the blood at levels of a drop in a swimming pool. Hormones occur in a wide range of multicellular organisms, including plants, animals, fungi, brown algae, and red algae. They are ami g the most complex feedback loops and interactions in organisms.
In the case of love, there are three clear groups of hormones. Testosterone and estrogen drive lust, derived from the gonads; dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin create attraction, derived from the brain; and oxytocin and vasopressin mediate attachment, derived from the brain.
Brain dopamine and norepinephrine is the reward hormone. It makes is feel very good. It is released in the proximity of a lived one and while having sex or feeling attraction. We are bathed in feel good hormone. We feel euphoric, giddy, a little loopy, and highly energized. Our reward centers in our brains go berserk, firing electrical signals.
Dopamine, which runs the reward pathways in our brain, is great in moderate doses, helping us enjoy food, exciting events, and relationships. However, we can push the dopamine pathway too far when we become addicted to food or drugs. Similarly, too much dopamine in a relationship can underlie unhealthy emotional dependence on our partners. And while healthy levels of oxytocin help us bond and feel warm and fuzzy towards our companions, elevated oxytocin can also fuel prejudice.
Serotonin, which is involved in appetite and mood, is triggered in the early stages of love.
Attachment is the final pathway of successful lust and attraction phases. This is the bedrock of the parent-infant and social bonding stages. The two primary hormones here are oxytocin and vasopressin.
I was once injected with oxytocin as a medical experiment, and the feeling of rose colored glasses and wellbeing was phenomenal. It is released in huge spikes during sex, breastfeeding and childbirth, as the motivation for all three. It is the socializing hormone.
But finally, these euphoric hormones can make us switch off our rational, critical thinking, logical brains, and allow us to act rather dumb, or lovestruck.
Consider this astonishing fact. When a female fruit fly mates, within hours almost 2,000 genes are sent into turmoil, some turned on some turned off. The organism goes into high gear producing or curtailing production of numerous proteins. The switch has been switched in preparation for reproduction of the next generation.
Pheromones are also strong aromatic chemical triggers for the behaviors of lust, attraction, attachment, and child rearing. These little understood external chemical triggers are thought to affect mate selection, arousal and mood.
Hormones course through our blood, genes fire up, and pheromones direct our senses to invisible tramlines. Our biological imperative is the preservation of the germline, the preservation of the species against the 99% odds of extinction. Once we have bred, with a successful next generation launched with a mixture of our genes, nature discards us to make room for their new genetic innovations.
The Valentine cards, flowers, chocolates are reinforcements to ensure this behavior endures and is stable. All the dopamine rush of love is a molecular front for successful reproduction. That is not to say that is awful. Nature has engineered us to make this the most important thing we can ever experience. Despite the history of high rates maternal deaths in ancient peoples, despite the numerous hours of labor, despite the the sleep deprivation, and the terrible twos, and ghastly adolescent rejection. We still reproduce against all logical thinking.
We are hardwired with powerful biological forces that overwhelm our defenses. We experience delightful delusions of something meaningful and etherial. It is a sleight of hand of nature, whose cunning is to bait the honey trap with exotic goodies and make us do the hard work of preserving life.
REFERENCES AND BACKMATTER
MAIN SOURCE FOR ESSAY. Love, Actually: The science behind lust, attraction, and companionship
A large number of species, from microorganisms on up, release pheromones that play some role in mating.
Androstadienone, a metabolite of testosterone, is found in male semen and in secretions from the armpit area. Research has suggested it may promote physiological arousal in women, but not in heterosexual men. Estratetraenol, on the other hand, is an estrogen found in female urine. Estratetraenol has been found to affect autonomic arousal in men.
Simple logic suggests that death during childbirth must have been common in ancient communities, in which healthcare, if it existed at all, was basic and lacking understanding of the causes of infection.
Genes Regulated by Mating, Sperm, or Seminal Proteins in Mated Female Drosophila melanogaster
Expression of up to 1783 genes changed as a result of mating, most less than 2-fold. Of these, 549 genes were regulated by the receipt of sperm and 160 as a result of Acps that females received from their mates. The remaining genes whose expression levels changed were modulated by nonsperm/non-Acp aspects of mating.
Pheromones and their effect on women’s mood and sexuality
Pheromones may be present in all bodily secretions but most attention has been geared toward axillary sweat which contains the odorous 16-androstenes. One of these steroidal compounds, androstadienone, is present at much higher concentrations in male sweat and can be detected by women, albeit with wide variation in sensitivity. Upper-lip application of a pharmacological dose of androstadienonein women results in improved mood and heightened focus – particularly to capture emotional information. A positive mood is known to facilitate women’s sexual response, and increased focus improves sexual satisfaction. Indeed, some studies showed a beneficial effect of androstadienone on sexual desire and arousal.
Some data indicate that 16-androstene pheromones, in particular androstadienone, play a beneficial role in women’s mood, focus and sexual response, and perhaps also in mate selection.