06 April, 2011

Chemistry Lesson

I'm kinda sciency.  You know, I like reading science magazines. Especially about brain science.  So recently, I thought, "what is it that makes us fall in love.  Perhaps I'm missing it". Well, obviously, the first thing you need is a someone you're attracted to.  Which is clearly one part I'm missing.  But love's quite a journey once you find the right road.  Here's what I found out.

Firstly, let's not call it love.  Let's call it by it's proper name.  Pair bonding.

Stage 1: Dopamine = Lust

Dopamine makes you feel goooood.  Loved up, sexy as hell and ready for a romp.  When you find someone you want to shag, dopamine goes off like a frog in a sock, zapping pleasure signals around your synapses. It's a natural cocaine high.  That's actually true.  Because a line of coke will stop your brain from being able to turn off the dopamine, so you get a feeling of delicious pleasure for hours (the downside is, of course, that eventually, the dopamine breaks down.  So the more coke you snort, the more you need. Eventually, you can't experience pleasure of any sort. Also, it's very expensive).

Advertising executives have long employed cocaine
to simulate joy in their empty, wasted lives.

Anyway, dopamine is the chemical of lust.  That instant attraction that people claim to feel - it's just dopamine zooming around, doing dirty stuff to their nethers. Dopamine is what happened to Mike Yanagita.  Also the tight-arse movie-buff.  Unfortunately for them both, it didn't happen to me.

Stage 2:  Norepinephrine = Infatuation

If dopamine is the drug of lust, then norepinephrine is the drug of infatuation, and it follows close on the heels of its buddy.  It makes your heart pound, and it focuses you on that hot bloke on the other side of the bar.  The one with the bedroom eyes and the rippling biceps.  Unless you're me.  In which case the guy on the other side of the bar has bedroom hair and rippling stomach fat. 

Norepinephrine makes your hands sweat, your blood pressure rise and is pretty closely related to adrenaline. It's the one that causes that surging, delightful feeling you get in your stomach when you see your crush arrive at the party.  It's a rush.  And it's focused on the object of your desire.  If you're a douchebag, that's probably me.

If he wasn't dating her, he'd be having a crack at me. 
Norepinephrine will do that.

 Stage 3: Oxytocin = Calling each other stupid names

Right, so this bad boy is given the nauseating nickname "The Cuddle Hormone".  Personally, I reckon that's right up there with fucking care bears, but you know, I don't make this shit up.  Here's what the scientists say about it: "The hormone facilitates nest building and pup retrieval in rats...and the formation of adult pair-bonds in prairie voles*. In humans, oxytocin stimulates milk ejection during lactation, uterine contraction during birth, and is released during sexual orgasm in both men and women." 

Yep, oxytocin goes ballistic when you blow one off.  Apparently, the more often you get laid, the more you'll like the person you're shagging.  That's oxytocin's fault.  It tricks you into thinking the person you're banging is attractive and makes you want to keep banging them.  In short, it keeps you together when the dopamine rush wears off. 

Prairie voles hot for each other.  It's the oxytocin you fools.

And another thing

It turns out that pair bonding makes you crazy.  Legitimately, certifiably crazy.  Dr Donatella Marazziti, a psychiatrist at the University of Pisa conducted a study and analysed blood samples of couples in love.  She found that their seratonin** levels were low.  Really low.  As low as people suffering obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Which explains a lot really.  All that mooning about, thinking about the object of your affection.  Doing genuinely stupid stuff like texting them forty times a day and using appalling names like "Schnookems" and "Boopie".  Ugh. 

Actually, that reminds me of a time where I sort of dated a guy (for less than a week) when I was in my early twenties.  This fucktard slipped a note on my tray (I was a drink waitress), that said "I wuv you from your hush puppy xoxox."  Made a little bit of vomit rise up the back of my throat.  Naturally, I had to dump him after that.  Disgusting.

Don't call me Schmoopie, dickwad.

How to pair bond.

So I stumbled across this sage advice.  It comes from a study conducted in New York, by psychologist and professor Dr Arthur Arun, who investigated how people fall in love.  Here's what you do.
Firstly, find a complete stranger.  Preferably one that gets your dopamine on.
Next, share something personal with them. Some intimate detail of your life (although resist the urge to tell them about that irritating itchy rash on your anus.  Yes, it's intimate, but no-one wants to know about that).  Let them share a bit.  Keep this up for around half an hour.

Finally, stare longingly into their eyes for four minutes without talking.  Presto!  You're in love.
According to the good Professor, most of his test subjects felt deeply attracted to each other at the end of the study.  Two of the couples ended up getting hitched.  So you know, give it a crack.  But not with me, okay?  I don't want to hear your whiny bullshit about your childhood and how you secretly like to watch German porn dressed as a giant prawn.

*Turns out prairie voles indulge in way more sex than they need to propagate.  They're at it all the time, the little darlings.  They also form long term relationships.  So technically, they're more evolved than I am. Also, they're getting more action.

**For the uninitiated, seratonin controls appetite, sleep, mood, and muscle contraction. It's also got its fingers in memory and learning. It's kinda bad-ass.

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