Previous month:
May 2007
Next month:
July 2007

Sex on the First Date Redux

Elizabeth Hadley, sexologist in training, gave a hilarious response to the question of sex without commitment.
She says,

"When a human has an orgasm, the chemicals released from the brain shoot from your Hypothalamous to your genitals at a rate of 250 MILES AN HOUR."

Read the rest on her blog, Not Afraid to Ask.

Hug Your Oxytocin Today

If oxytocin is released in times of closeness and trust, hugging has got to be one of the best activities for getting and giving a nice oxytocin boost.

Newspapers articles are always saying that hugging releases oxytocin, and recommending at least 20 seconds. As far as I know, there's only been one study documenting this.

A 2005 study led by Karen Grewen tested women's blood levels for cortisol and oxytocin before and after 10 minutes of "warm contact" between a woman and her spouse or partner. They weren't exactly testing the effects of hugging itself, however. They wanted to see the relationship between the amount of support a woman perceived from her partner and her blood pressure, stress and relaxation hormones.

The women who in general felt more supported also had lower blood pressure and higher baseline levels of oxytocin. They did NOT find oxytocin increases after the hugs.

Nevertheless, some things you don't need a scientist to prove. I believe that other studies have shown hugging lowers blood pressure and improves health in general.

Here's the paper: <>a href="">Effects of Partner Support on Resting Oxytocin, Cortisol, Norepinephrine, and Blood Pressure Before and After Warm Partner Contact

See also: Free Hugs Part One and How I Cuddled

eBay Gives a Shoutout to Hug the Monkey

A reader noticed the similarity between eBay's new ad campaign and my blog's banner (which was designed by Donna Mae Montgomery, an artist and illustrator).

The website for eBay's Windorphins campaign playfully urges people to get some of this natural, addictive substance that delivers "a general sensation of unabashed joy in the brain, leading to heightened energy, exuberance and outright slam dunk high-five behavior."

Sounds not unlike the dopamine rush of romance. And, the site's header does have a similar look to my banner. Think I should sue?

Get Over Romance, Already

It's happened to most of us: suddenly falling out of love with someone.

He hasn't changed; she isn't doing anything different. "I still respect you and like you," we say sadly. "I think you're a wonderful person. But I just don't feel it any more."

"It" being that exciting, desperate mix of need, desire, passion, thrill.

The problem is, that truly-madly feeling isn't really love at all. It's a mix of attraction and lust designed by evolution to impel us to mate with a species-appropriate and healthy partner in order to perpetuate the species. According to anthropologist Helen Fisher, author of Why We Love, attraction, lust and love take place in different parts of the brain and are ruled by different neurochemicals.

Psychologist Offra Gerstein recently wrote an excellent article explaining all this, which you can read online at

Better, she gives advise on how to move from truly-madly into deeply-in-love, the deep and amazing bond of oxytocin.

She writes,

Abandon the notion that the initial "in love" state can or should last in its original form. Trade it for intermittent closeness, tenderness and bliss you can create.

View the change of attachment from "in love" to loving as a healthy and sustainable state of interacting with your mate. Most likely, your partner feels the same about you, which is ideal.

Good advice for all of us to remember in our sex-crazed culture.

Oxytocin, Dating and Marriage

Love has an image problem in Western culture. When we say "love," we're usually thinking of passion, romance, the excitement of a new love affair. In a couple years, when that thrill is gone, we say, "I don't know what happened. I just don't love you any more."

But there's love, love, love and love -- and probably a few more flavors besides. "True love," I believe, is the oxytocin bond. It's that bond that begins when we begin to trust someone enough to touch them and let them touch us. It deepens when we have sex, and it's what carries the relationship through after the passionate fire becomes embers.

Western society, with its emphasis on sexuality and its phobia about non-sexual touching, is becoming an oxytocin-poor society. Anesthetized babies are ripped out of the wombs of their knocked-out mothers, depriving both of them of the oxytocin-bathed experience that should set the tone for their expectations from others. Overworked mothers and fathers often can't give babies and kids the nurturing and attention they need, while TV, computers and cell phones take the place of face-to-face interaction.

As a result, kids reach adolescence with an impaired ability to trust and bond at the same time that their raging hormones are pushing them to connect sexually. Pop culture tells them hot sex equals love. They may marry for sex or because they're madly in love, but not be equipped to move to the next stage: deeply bonded love.

In response to a friend's question, in my book I wrote briefly that you don't need to go through the romantic stage to find true love. In the blog al-'Azel min Nasij al-Nabat, Taufik makes the same case to Muslim couples who may be adopting Western-style dating.

According to Taufik, more secular Muslims may feel they really need to date to get to know someone; arranged marriages, they think, are for religious conservatives, the kind whose women wear purdah. But these people are too focused on the dopamine-rush of romance.

Taufik provides a glossary of neuroscience terms; I wish there were one for the non-English words, as well. Dating baru kahwin, I think, means Western-style dating (maybe with sex before marriage?), while kahwin baru dating, I believe, refers to an arranged relationship. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Taufik writes:

It is pretty clear now that dating baru kahwin doesn't come even close to ensure a happily-ever-after relationship. Ironically, those 'extreme 'alim people' are the ones who understand real love and real life, not those Casanovas. Do note that I am not saying if you kahwin baru dating then your marriage will last forever, but if you dating baru kahwin then you are doom to failure. I am simply pointing out that romantic passion has nothing to do about spotting the 'right person' in your life. It is also true that incompatibility may happen between two persons, like there is just no chemistry between the two of you. The point is, you don't need to go on countless hang outs to spot that. You don't need to overload your neuropathways with excessive dopamine to find the supposedly elusive chemistry. It is common sense: You sit down and talk with a person for 15 minutes and you'll know whether you can get along with that person or not. I am talking in general, meaning even with a stranger who you want to make him as your friend, not just your life partner.

The post is a very interesting look at how the romance cult is playing out in a different culture.

See also Romance, Love and Depression and Love Me Like a Vole.

The Latest Hype: The Love Drug

Excitement and misinformation about oxytocin is out of control. This latest from CNN India suggests that we can get love in a bottle. It begins provocatively

In love? Over the moon? Want to cement all ties with the one you are crazy about?

Well, this is not J K Rowling''s world and you cannot really whip up a love potion to enchant the chosen one. However, you can try the next best thing - take some oxytocin.

And goes on to mention Lain MacGregor's finding that the drug ecstasy increases oxytocin release, as well as Adam Guastella's trial of using an oxytocin inhalant to make couples counseling more effective.

See: Oxytocin for Psychotherapy and Oxytocin in Therapy.

Love Chemistry Is Finished

On Thursday, I finished my book. It's still -- tentatively -- titled "Love Chemistry," and I'm still looking for a good subtitle that explains that the book is about all the ways oxytocin lets us bond, trust and love.

Someone said to me recently, "I bet you'll be glad when it's finished." But I'm not. I loved writing it and wish I could have worked on it for six more months. I was finding new research on the very last day!

The manuscript is in the hands of my editors at Amacom books; I don't have a publication date yet. I can't wait.

Now, I'll shift the focus back to this blog, and keep reporting, explaining and ruminating. But now, I'm on vacation. I'm writing this in a wonderful old bed and breakfast in New Orleans, while lightning and thunder crash outside.