A team of researchers at Florida State University has found an epigenetic factor involved in voles’ lifelong pair bonding. In their paper published in the journal Nature Neuroscience , the researchers describe how they found the act of mating – along with time spent alone – led to permanent brain changes in the voles involved in the study.
Voles are famously monogamous, leading some to note that switching the letters around in their name spells the word “love.” But the factors that lead to such pair bonding have remained somewhat of a mystery. Researchers have known for some time that vole pairs have higher levels of neurotransmitters – vasopressin and oxytocin – in their brains, but until now, haven’t been able to explain why. In this new study, the researchers have found that the act of mating, combined with time spent along together, causes permanent changes to chromosomes that lead to changes in genes that are responsible for creating monogamous behavior.
Suspecting an epigenetic factor (chemical changes to chromosomes that impact how genes are transcribed) was at play, the researchers tested captive voles in a variety of circumstances for neurotransmitter levels. Some voles were housed together for six hours but weren’t allowed to mate – others were housed together long enough to encourage mating (typically a full day). Some of the voles that were not allowed to mate also had the histone trichostatin A (TSA) injected into a part of their brain – the nucleus accumbens – it’s known to play a part in their monogamous behavior. Other voles without injections were allowed to behave naturally.
In studying the results of their experiments, the researchers found that voles housed for just six hours with prospective mates that also received TAS injections, became bonded mates regardless of whether they actually mated or not – and genes for the neurotransmitter receptors had been transcribed, which meant the changes were permanent. Subsequent testing of such pairs showed the bonded animals exhibited the same raised levels of neurotransmitters as those who mated naturally in the wild. They also found that voles being housed together was just as important as the chemical injection – those housed for shorter times, despite the dose of TSA, did not bond. This, they say, suggests that the bonding that occurs has more than one component. Spending time together before mating, they note, causes some sort of mental imprinting that when combined with raised neurotransmitter levels, causes the voles to want to mate with just their partner for the rest of their lives. …
Archive for the ‘Love’ Category
Posted by Xeno on June 4, 2013
Posted by Xeno on May 20, 2013
Kaitlyn Ashley Hunt was arrested February 16 by the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office on two counts of lewd or lascivious battery on child.
Her mother, Kelley Hunt Smith, explained on Facebook that Kaitlyn began a “mutual consenting” relationship with a girl at Sebastian River High School who was about three years younger. The parents of the younger girl were upset by the situation and contacted police, she wrote.
“They were out to destroy my daughter, they feel like my daughter ‘made’ their daughter gay,” Kaitlyn mother’s said. “They are bigoted, religious zeolites [sic] that see being gay as a sin and wrong, and they blame my daughter.”
The parents of the younger girl also pressured the Indian River County School Board into expelling Kaitlyn, she added. The teen is now attending an alternative school.
“Those parents have forced the State Attorneys office to go thru [sic] with felony charges and are trying to ruin my daughters life,” Kaitlyn mother’s continued. “This is insane. This should have never been a legal matter, it is a family matter. They are trying to send an innocent young girl to prison because they are full of hate and bigotry. These girls are teenagers in high school, who had ONE mutual consenting sexual experience. My daughter isn’t a criminal, she isn’t a predator.”
Kaitlyn has until Friday to accept or reject a plea deal of two years house arrest and one year probation, according to her mother.
In response to the incident, friends and family setup a “Free Kate” Facebook page and online petition in hopes of having the case dropped. Support for the young girl appeared to be strong. The petition had more than 27,000 supporters on Sunday morning. …
Free Kate…and her girlfriend.
Odds are the parents of Kate’s girlfriend have unresolved homosexual feelings causing them to be this hateful. That would make sense genetically if they had a gay daughter. Their hate could be self-loathing.
Attackers of gays turn out to be repressed homosexuals who hate themselves because their own closet gay patents spent so much time expressing hate toward gays.
Both gay people and confidently non-gay people (that’s most of us) don’t care if some people are gay.
Kate being terrorized with jail time by these people pisses me off. No one can make a daughter gay except the parents. It’s genetic. Well epigenetic, actually. Kate’s girlfriend’s dad didn’t have enough testosterone at a key time and that can’t be changed now.
The hereditary link of homosexuality has long been established, but scientists knew it was not a strictly genetic link, because there are many pairs of identical twins who have differing sexualities. Scientists from the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis say homosexuality seems to have an epigenetic, not a genetic link.
Long thought to have some sort of hereditary link, a group of scientists suggested Tuesday that homosexuality is linked to epi-marks — extra layers of information that control how certain genes are expressed. These epi-marks are usually, but not always, “erased” between generations. In homosexuals, these epi-marks aren’t erased — they’re passed from father-to-daughter or mother-to-son, explains William Rice, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California Santa Barbara and lead author of the study. …
“There is compelling evidence that epi-marks contribute to both the similarity and dissimilarity of family members, and can therefore feasibly contribute to the observed familial inheritance of homosexuality and its low concordance between [identical] twins,” Rice notes.
Rice and his team created a mathematical model that explains why homosexuality is passed through epi-marks, not genetics. Evolutionarily speaking, if homosexuality was solely a genetic trait, scientists would expect the trait to eventually disappear because homosexuals wouldn’t be expected to reproduce. But because these epi-marks provide an evolutionary advantage for the parents of homosexuals: They protect fathers of homosexuals from underexposure to testosterone and mothers of homosexuals from overexposure to testosterone while they are in gestation.
… First, evidence shows that homosexuality can run in families. Still, only 20 percent of identical twins are both gay, said Rice. Furthermore, linkage studies looking for a genetic underpinning to sexual orientation have not turned up any “major” homosexual genes, Rice noted. “This made us suspicious that something besides genes produces heritability that isn’t genetic.” Epigenetics fits the bill.
The model focuses on the role of epigenetics in shaping how cells respond to androgen signaling, an important determinant of gonad development. The researchers suggest that androgens are also important factors in molding sexual orientation, and that various genes involved in mediating androgen signaling are regulated by epigenetic modifications. These epigenetic marks, they argue, can be passed on between generations.
As an example of how androgens shape sexuality, the researchers point to girls with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), who produce very high levels of testosterone and often display masculinized genitalia and higher rates of same-sex attraction. But testosterone levels are sometimes the same in normally developing male and female fetuses—without masculinizing the females—suggesting that something else must be playing a role.
The answer, they hypothesized, has to do with sensitivity to androgens. There are a variety of proteins that can modify androgen signaling, and the researchers hypothesize that differences in sensitivity to these signals between male and female fetuses help mediate their sexual differentiation. Rice and his colleagues suggest that such sensitivity may be regulated by the acquisition of epigenetic marks that make girls less sensitive to masculinizing androgens, or make boys more sensitive.
Such epi-marks are typically accrued early in development, as cells are programmed to become specific adult cell types. … they could be inherited from a parent. Most epigenetic modifications are erased during development of germ cells and soon after fertilization so that cell lineages can be programmed with new epigenetic modifications. But if epi-marks that direct sexual development are not erased correctly, a mother could pass down epi-marks that direct female development to her son, resulting in an attraction to men, and vice versa for a father and his daughters …
They also expect that specific epi-marks will regulate sensitivity differently in the brain versus gonads, resulting in same-sex attraction even when normal genital development occurs, said Gavrilets….
Further research will tell, but this is the current most plausible biological basis.
Posted by Xeno on May 12, 2013
Happy Mother’s Day!
Everything that we are or hope to be, we owe to those who raised us.
As part my Mother’s Day gift this year, I will spend several hours today talking with my mother to figure out why I have not met my highest potential. Why have I not used my time to the greatest benefit of society? Is there still time to change my selfishness? How did I get so selfish?
Perhaps in the effort to build a strong ego my parents did not include appropriate negative feedback, limit setting and discipline.
How can I rewire my brain’s reward centers to align my habits with my highest ideals… permanently?
Did you cure a deep rooted selfishness? If so, how? I may need a long silent nature retreat.
… Although many elements of our society may encourage it, selfishness just hurts other people, sometimes at little to no personal gain. A selfish person also ends up losing friends or loved ones because no matter how charming or interesting a selfish person may be, a relationship with a selfish person is hard to maintain. A truly selfish person would never consider the possibility that they are selfish. Many think selfishness and pride are good things, and that putting the needs of others above your own is for suckers. …
Try to develop empathy… Allow yourself to imagine how they feel, what hurts them or makes them happy. …
Look for ways to help; anticipate the needs and feelings of others. Join others who are kind and reciprocate kindness. …
Selfishness is a root cause, it seems to me, of many correctable maladaptive and even antisocial behaviors. You may never be able to make up for past selfishness, but you must do what you can to right your wrongs. What counts is the sum of all of your actions. Add them up now.
If you owe, pay up. Apologize with a year of good behavior. Start today. Take a vow.
Science says we actually may not have free will. If you are unable to end selfish behaviors on your own, join my new self help group: Inner Change for Selfish Bastards.
The ICfSB is a non-religious organization dedicated to finding and adjusting memories and thoughts that lead to self-centered behaviors.
Members are Anonymous to the limits of current technology. You start by signing up for a Tormail.org email address.
Further directions will follow. Do it.
Posted by Xeno on February 14, 2013
February is Cupid’s month, and what better time to explore some of the findings about love, sex and romance that neuroscience and psychology have uncovered over the last few years.
Einstein was correct – science will never clinically sterilize the wonderment of love (first or otherwise). But I think he’d also agree that it’s a mistake to confuse increased understanding with diminished meaning. No matter what we learn about love, it will continue to be one of the most meaningful and powerful forces on the planet, as it should be. With that disclaimer, let’s jump in.
Love is addictive.Thinking about one’s beloved – particularly in new relationships – triggers activity in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) of the brain, which releases a flood of the neurotransmitter dopamine (the so-called “pleasure chemical”) into the brain’s reward (or pleasure) centers, the caudate nucleus and nucleus accumbens. This gives the lover a high not unlike the effect of narcotics, and it’s mighty addictive.
At the same time, the brain in love experiences an increase in the stress hormone norephinephrine, which increases heart rate and blood pressure, effects similar to those experienced by people using potent addictive stimulants like methamphetamine.
Love is obsessive.The brain in love experiences a drop in the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin provides a sense of being in control; it guards against the anxiety of uncertainty and instability. When it drops, our sense of control decreases and we become obsessively fixated on things that rattle our certainty and stability cages – and since love is by definition unpredictable, it’s a prime target for obsession. This is also why the term “crazy in love” isn’t too far off the truth.
Love is prone to recklessness.The prefrontal cortex – our brain’s reasoning command and control center – drops into low gear when we’re in love. At the same time, the amygdala, a key component of the brain’s threat-response system, also revs down. The combination of these effects is a willingness to take more risks, even ones that would normally seem reckless to us in another state of mind. (For more on this, check out this PDF’d study.)
Love and lust can coexist in the brain – and not necessarily for the same person.Love and lust appear to be separate but overlapping neural responses in the brain. They both produce a “high” and both are addictive, and they effect many of the same parts of the brain – but they are distinct enough that you can be in love with one person and in lust with another.
Over time, the differences become more significant. For example, the brains of people in long-term love relationships show increased activity in the ventral pallidum, a region of the brain rich with oxytocin and vasopressin receptors that facilitate long-term pair-bonding and attachment. (Check out researcher Helen Fisher’s work in this area for more information.)
Men in love are extremely visual beasts.The brains of men in love show greater activity in the visual cortex than women’s brains. Add this to the fact that men seem to be more visually stimulated than women in general.
Women in love remember the details.The brains of women in love show greater activity in the hippocampus – the brain region associated with memory – than do men’s brains. Add to this that a woman’s hippocampus takes up a larger percentage of her brain than does the male counterpart. (Another lesson here for men: women remember…brother, they remember.)
Eye contact is a lover’s magic.Newborns and lovers have this in common – more than any other factor, eye contact is the main conduit for emotional connection. When those in love speak of the “entrancing gaze” of their lover, it’s not just a romantic notion – it’s a biological reality. Eye contact and a smile is an especially potent combination.
Only voice interaction comes anywhere close to eye contact in this regard. Our voice carries more information than we think, and it can help facilitate an emotional connection, but it’s still a distant second to eye contact. (Check out Barbara L. Fredrickson’s new book, ,Love 2.0 for more information on all of the above.)
Promiscuity and monogamy can be chemically influenced.You’ve probably heard about our furry little friends, the prairie voles. Scientists who study monogamy and promiscuity love the critters because they provide an excellent mirror for human relationships. One type of vole is monogamous – it bonds with one mate for life. Another type of vole (the montane vole) is promiscuous. The key difference between the two kinds of voles appears to be genetic – an intriguing point when you consider that otherwise the voles are 99% genetically identical.
When researchers inject the promiscuous variety of vole with oxytocin and vasopressin – the neurochemicals that are linked to pair-bonding in humans (and in the monogamous voles) – the promiscuous voles become monogamous. It’s not entirely clear if the effect would hold true to the same degree in humans, but there’s pretty good evidence that it might, though for short periods of time. In two studies (described ) men who inhaled oxytocin became temporarily more empathetic, sensitive and cuddly….
Read the rest:
Posted by Xeno on December 3, 2012
I’ve decided to try something new this Christmas for my family gift giving. Excluding the young kids and those too old to shop, I’m trying the reverse Christmas. Here’s how it works:
Pre-Christmas you and each member of the family participating agree to have a reverse Christmas. You buy yourself what you want to get from the other person, then wrap it and open it in front of them during your gift exchange. They do the same, buy themselves what they want from you. You each get exactly what you wanted and needed and you spend what you want. The surprise is still there, but the surprise (what gift they gave you) is your gift to them.
No more worrying about getting the right size or if the person will love the gift.
Have you tried this? How has it worked for you?
Posted by Xeno on September 10, 2012
A couple in South Carolina has been desperately seeking an organ donor. They haven’t found one yet. But they did find something else: a whole lot of friends they never knew they had, as we learned “On the Road.”
Larry Swilling and his wife Jimmie Sue have been happily married 56 years. So happily, in fact, that Larry has now come to realize the downside of loving someone so much you can’t live without them. You can’t live without them.
“She’s my heart,” he said.
Heart has never been an issue for these two. What’s always been lacking is a kidney. Jimmie Sue was born with only one, and now that one is shot. She needs a transplant — but neither her husband, nor anyone tested in her family, is a suitable match.
If you are interested in learning more about being an organ donor for Mrs. Swilling or for the nearly 100,000 other people who are waiting for a new kidney, please contact the Medical University of South Carolina Transplant Center: 1-800-277-8687.
Jimmie Sue is trying to get on a donor list, but the wait is about two or three years long and that’s for a kidney from a deceased donor. Transplant patients who get their kidneys from living donors tend to live longer. Which is why Larry decided to try a completely radical approach to securing a kidney: Asking for it, from total strangers.
“I don’t care what people think,” Larry said. He tells his wife, “I’m going to get you a kidney.”
And on out on the street, wearing a signboard — “Need kidney 4 wife” — he’s not shy in asking passersby: “I sure could use your kidney.”
Never mind that most people won’t give panhandlers their pocket change, let alone their vital organs. For the last couple weeks Larry, at 77, has been walking all over his hometown of Anderson, S.C. — and the surrounding towns — basically begging for a kidney.
He didn’t really think it would work. But, he said, “I’m trying. I had to do something.”
It was really just a way to not feel helpless, which is why he was a surprised as anyone when the phone rang. Repeatedly.
“I’m willing to donate a kidney for your wife,” one caller said on voicemail.
“I’d like nothing more than to help you out,” said another.
Believe it or not, over the last few days the phone hasn’t stopped ringing. Hundreds of people who either saw his sign — or heard about it — have volunteered. As one volunteer put it, “I’ve got two, and I only need one.”
It’s too early to tell if Larry has found a match for his wife, but at this point he’s almost certainly recruited enough volunteers — and raised enough awareness — to save someone. That’s fine by Jimmie Sue.
“If I get a kidney, fine. If I don’t, I hope someone else does,” she said. But it’s not good enough for Larry. And that’s why Larry is still out there, appealing to the kindness of strangers — for the love of his life.
Dr Ben Kim has this to say about kidneys:
Each of your kidneys is about 4 to 5 inches long and about 1 inch thick, weighing in at about 4.5 to 5 ounces. To put it into easy-to-visualize terms, each of your kidneys is a bit larger than a deck of cards. Although your kidneys make up less than 0.5 percent of your total body weight, they receive close to 25 percent of the total amount of blood that your heart pumps while you’re resting. Also, your kidneys use up about 20 to 25 percent of your body’s supply of oxygen…. Why do your kidneys – such small organs – receive so much of your blood and oxygen? Because they are responsible for five critical functions:
- Your kidneys keep your blood clean by filtering it of waste products and eliminating these waste products from your body as urine.
- Your kidneys help maintain a proper balance of fluids throughout your body.
- Your kidneys secrete a hormone called erythropoietin, which is responsible for stimulating the production of red blood cells in your bone marrow.
- Your kidneys produce an enzyme called renin, which is needed to help maintain your blood pressure.
- Your kidneys convert vitamin D to its most active form.
Here’s how to keep your kidneys healthy when you get older:
Beyond using your sense of thirst to dictate how much water and water-rich foods you ingest, here are two important ways to protect your kidneys from prematurely breaking down:
1. Don’t eat too much protein.
Eating more protein than you need leads to greater workload on your kidneys, which must filter a by-product of protein metabolism called blood urea nitrogen (BUN) out of your blood. This increased workload can contribute to premature breakdown of the glomeruli in your kidneys.
If you have healthy kidneys, you can safely eat up to half of your body weight (in pounds) in grams per day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds and are in good health, you can safely eat up to 75 grams of protein from minimally processed foods per day. If you have problems with your kidneys, you should decrease this amount to a level that results in a healthy blood urea nitrogen level.
2. Don’t take over-the-counter pain pills on a regular basis.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), and aspirin are known to cause kidney damage if taken regularly. Acetaminophen (Tylenol and Excedrin) can also cause kidney damage and failure if used regularly. All of these over-the-counter pain medications probably don’t pose significant danger if your kidneys are relatively healthy and you use them for emergencies only.
As many professional athletes have discovered during the past several years, regular use of prescription anti-inflammatory pain medication like Vioxx, Indocin, and Naprosyn poses even greater danger to kidney health than over-the-counter pain killers.
Posted by Xeno on June 3, 2012
Abandonment issues can be resolved.
Feelings of abandonment can be worked through in a loving relationship with a partner who understands. However, what’s critically important is that these fears be communicated and owned by you.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that your partner must change his or her behaviour. But through his or her loving care and understanding you can begin to resolve these fears. You resolve them by experiencing something different.
In other words, your fears might come up but you aren’t left behind. Repeatedly over time, your brain will learn to trust your partner and you will experience less fear in the events and interactions of your relationship.
This process can take years however and because our fears in relationships can undermine a solid foundation, some folks proactively work them out in counseling. This is often the best option – working them out before they reach a crisis when therapeutic interventions are less effective.
And, because these patterned responses are ingrained implicitly, they don’t easily lend themselves to left-brain based talk therapies alone. This is why it’s so important to have right-brain-based strategies in your psychotherapy. Right brain based interventions are experienced.
And, it’s through experience that you change the brain.
… the brain’s plasticity, or adaptability, continues as long as we live. This means that you can replace that template at any time, but you need to have new experiences. You need to somehow reproduce the conditions in which your personal template was originally formed so that a new one can arise.
If childhood experiences taught you not to trust, healthy long term relationships can be tricky.
My approach has been intellectual and logical, which works … a little. Thinking rationally, however, is, a weak defense against the emotions that surface when triggered. To offset this imbalance, I’ve become super intellectual, but still, intense feelings of fear, hurt and anger appear under circumstances where I have only imagined reasons not to trust. I will, for the first time, now admit this.
I experience vigilance, suspicion and over developed doubt. My mind plays fantasies where I am once again being wronged, lied to, cheated on, and so on. I fight paranoia with logic and by seeking a lot of reassurance.
Still, I keep checking for what I expect to find until I find it, and when I do find it, this intermittent reinforcement strengthens the emotional response. The problem is, if people were only lying or cheating on me 1 in 100 of the times I suspected it, I am needlessly nervous and stressed out.
Until this weekend, I have thought there was no other way, that my feelings are unavoidable due to my experiences.
My intellectual understanding of this does not keep the feelings from surfacing.
How do I reprogram my emotions with “a right brained intervention?” This is the “deep work” I am doing, what I must do to move to the next level of intimacy. I have avoided it, I have danced around it for too many years.
If something is dramatic, we wrongly see it as more frequent.
I blame this simple flaw of perception for gambling casinos, the war on terror, and the roller coaster of love.
To find your full inner strength, the self confidence that becomes your life long grounding, update the memories that most disturb you. Update them with new experiences, new responses to old memories.
As a songwriter for many years, I’m lucky to have a chronicle of my emotional history. I am now re-working and finishing those 88 songs. Only now I understand why doing this is important to me. I see the reason for my journey. I have my direction, my intention set on the best possible horizon. Life is good today!
Posted by Xeno on May 28, 2012
I proposed and she said “yes” on a beach in Maui about 5 months ago. Our first crazy adventure together as an engaged couple was my losing the rental car key on the beach. A replacement key was only an extra $150, but my going back and searching the beach, the road, our clothes and every inch of the car several times made a good story for family and friends.
Today, in the bottom of my guitar case, it turned up. We laughed for at least an hour. Think they will buy the key back from me?
Posted by Xeno on March 6, 2012
Men like to know when their wife or girlfriend is happy while women really want the man in their life to know when they are upset, according to a new study published by the American Psychological Association.
The study involved a diverse sample of couples and found that men’s and women’s perceptions of their significant other’s empathy, and their abilities to tell when the other is happy or upset, are linked to relationship satisfaction in distinctive ways, according to the article published online in the Journal of Family Psychology.
“It could be that for women, seeing that their male partner is upset reflects some degree of the man’s investment and emotional engagement in the relationship, even during difficult times. This is consistent with what is known about the dissatisfaction women often experience when their male partner becomes emotionally withdrawn and disengaged in response to conflict,” said the study’s lead author, Shiri Cohen, PhD, of Harvard Medical School. …
Most women are crazy.