Chemistry Unravels Mysteries of Human Emotions

I happened to write this on the Valentine day but somehow didn’t get to post it. This post is based on a recent research review article published in the journal Scientific American (Feb12,2013). The article reviews various scientific studies conducted on the influence of a petrochemical called Oxytocin on love or lack of it. The studies show an interesting correlation between Oxytocin levels of a person with his or her feelings of love for another. It was found that people with sufficient levels of this chemical can express their intense emotional states very effectively and transparently and this is crucial for developing romance, love, empathy etc between two individuals. Not just that. Even longevity of a relationship between two individuals is also influenced by the Oxytocin levels of the partners because it helps a great deal in conflict resolution. The study says that a person with the right level of Oxytocin is likely to take a “less hostile interpretation” of his or her partner’s acts or behaviour.

The study and the findings are very interesting. What are the implications? Can Neuroscience come to the rescue of  ‘matchmaking’, which is today purely the domain of astrologers in India and subject to emotional & mood swings in the west? I would definitely think so. One has to simply measure oxytocin levels of two individuals interested in each other. If the levels are not ‘right’, don’t expect compatibility. Doesn’t  it lead to a simple  & more reliable process of decision making ? If so, can we replace Horoscope with ‘Harmonoscope’ ? ( This is my new word for taking Harmone based decision making!). This process coupled with genetics (instead of Zodiac signs) gives one a powerful scientific way of  ‘matchmaking’. I am sure future generations will trash horoscopes and replace them with science.

Besides emotions of love, science has also come up with chemicals associated with fear, anxiety, depression, suicide tendencies etc. It is indeed a fascinating field of research, which promises cure for several psychiatric diseases.

Besides matchmaking, there is one more great practical utility of the study.  One basic question the study answers is the following: Does Oxytocin levels in our body cause happy thoughts & feelings or the positive thoughts cause increase in Oxytocin levels? Surprisingly, it was found that both are happening. That implies a virtuous cycle where good/positive thoughts generate Oxytocin, which in turn inspires mores positive thoughts. ( Technically this is called the mechanism of POSITIVE FEEDBACK LOOP). Logically, the opposite ‘vicious cycle’  is also bound to operate. That is negative thoughts should depress oxytocin levels and vice versa. Thus our happiness is indeed in our hands. It is a matter of triggering the mechanism of positive feedback loop using positive thoughts to start with.

We all have read a lot about the power of positive thinking. Now Neuroscience tells us how it works.

This leads us to the obvious question of what is the state of absolute bliss or ANANDA that our Rishis talked about? I would guess that during meditation where there is a complete absence of thoughts, the Oxytocin levels must be the highest. It will be interesting to do a study on our Yogis and find out.

Published in: on March 3, 2013 at 3:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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