Serotonin: A critical chemical for human intimacy and romance
The judgments we make about the intimacy of other couples' relationships appear to be influenced by the brain chemical serotonin, reports a new study published in Biological Psychiatry.
Healthy adult volunteers, whose levels of serotonin activity had been lowered, rated couples in photos as being less intimate and less romantic than volunteers with normal serotonin activity.
The approach involved giving amino acid drinks to two groups of volunteers in order to manipulate blood concentrations of the amino acid tryptophan, which is a vital ingredient in the synthesis of serotonin. One group received drinks that contained tryptophan. The other group received drinks that did not contain tryptophan. They were then asked to make judgments about sets of photographs of couples. Differences in the judgments made by the two groups reflected changes in their serotonin activity.
"Serotonin is important in social behavior, and also plays a significant role in psychological disorders such as depression," explained Professor Robert Rogers of Oxford University, who led the research. "We wanted to see whether serotonin activity influences the judgments we make about peoples' close personal relationships."
The volunteers who received the drink without tryptophan consistently rated the couples in the photos as being less 'intimate' and 'romantic' than the participants who received the control drink.
This finding is an important reminder that our relationships with other people are influenced by processes beyond our awareness and control. But we should not be surprised by this revelation. Serotonin function drops in association with episodes of depression, where the capacity for intimacy also is often compromised.
Understanding the powerful influence of these chemicals is important as supportive close relationships are known to protect against the development of mental illnesses and to promote recovery in those affected by psychiatric conditions. The opposite is also true: dysfunctional relationships can be triggers for those at risk of these conditions.
The results raise the possibility that lower serotonin activity in people with depression and other psychiatric conditions could contribute to changes in the way they perceive personal relationships, or even in their ability to maintain positive personal relationships.
"Although this is only a small study, the same patterns may well extend to the way we perceive our own relationships," said Professor Rogers.
"The ability to chemically influence the capacity for intimacy could be very important. Reduced capacity for intimacy can be a vexing symptom of many psychiatric disorders and an important target for treatment," noted Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry. "Drugs that ameliorate the impact of serotonin deficits might play a role in the treatment of this symptom."
Although much more research is necessary before a drug might come to market that can help promote intimacy, it is clear for now that our chemistry has an impact on nearly aspect of our lives, from our most public actions to our most private, as we see here with human intimacy and romantic feelings.
More information: "Serotonergic Activity Influences the Cognitive Appraisal of Close Intimate Relationships in Healthy Adults" by Amy C. Bilderbeck, Ciara McCabe, Judi Wakeley, Francis McGlone, Tirril Harris, Phillip J. Cowen, and Robert D. Rogers. Bilderbeck, McCabe, Wakeley, Cowen, and Rogers are affiliated with Oxford University, Oxford, United Kingdom. McGlone is affiliated with University of Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom. Harris and Cowen are from King's College, London, United Kingdom. The article appears in Biological Psychiatry, Volume 69, Number 8 (April 15, 2011)
Provided by Elsevier
- Judging couples' chemistry influenced by serotonin Mar 14, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Women more depressed and men more impulsive with reduced serotonin functioning Sep 17, 2007 | not rated yet | 0
- New research explores role of serotonin in decision-making behaviour Jun 05, 2008 | not rated yet | 0
- Perceived level of intimacy within a relationship predicts relational uncertainty Aug 13, 2008 | not rated yet | 0
- For better romantic relationships, be true to yourself Mar 15, 2010 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
Why is zone 1 in liver more prone to ischemic injury?
May 23, 2013 Hi, Is it because around central vein, there is only deoxygenated blood from the vein where as in the periphery there is hepatic artery. Also why...
How can there be villous adenoma in colon, if there are no villi there
May 22, 2013 As title suggest. Thanks :smile:
How can there be a term called "intestinal metaplasia" of stomach
May 21, 2013 Hello everyone, Ok Stomach's normal epithelium is simple columnar, now in intestinal type of adenocarcinoma of stomach it undergoes "intestinal...
Pressure-volume curve: Elastic Recoil Pressure don't make sense
May 18, 2013 From pressure-volume curve of the lung and chest wall (attached photo), I don't understand why would the elastic recoil pressure of the lung is...
If you became brain-dead, would you want them to pull the plug?
May 17, 2013 I'd want the rest of me to stay alive. Sure it's a lousy way to live but it beats being all-the-way dead. Maybe if I make it 20 years they'll...
MRI bill question
May 15, 2013 Dear PFers, The hospital gave us a $12k bill for one MRI (head with contrast). The people I talked to at the hospital tell me that they do not...
- More from Physics Forums - Medical Sciences
More news stories
A brief visual task can predict IQ, according to a new study. This surprisingly simple exercise measures the brain's unconscious ability to filter out visual movement. The study shows that individuals whose ...
Psychology & Psychiatry 16 hours ago | 4.5 / 5 (10) | 1 |
Nervous about that upcoming job interview? You might want to take steps to reduce your jitters, especially if you are a man.
Psychology & Psychiatry 17 hours ago | 5 / 5 (1) | 0
(Medical Xpress)—Research by U of T Mississauga psychology professor Glenn Schellenberg reveals that two key personality traits – openness-to-experience and conscientiousness—predict better than IQ ...
Psychology & Psychiatry 19 hours ago | 3 / 5 (2) | 1 |
Parents naturally are concerned for their children's safety, particularly when there is news of a child abduction that happens close to home. Finding the balance between emotions and the "teachable moment" as parents talk ...
Psychology & Psychiatry 20 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
A new report on suicide in Ireland shows that suicide cases experienced a significant number (and intensity) of life events in the 6 months prior to their death.
Psychology & Psychiatry 20 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
The British Menopause Society and Women's Health Concern have today released updated guidelines on Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) to provide clarity around the role of HRT, the benefits and the risks. The new guidelines ...
23 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0
(Medical Xpress)—Regulating the distribution of power in neurons is done by a system that makes the national electric grid look simple by comparison. Each neuron has several thousand mitochondria confined ...
11 hours ago | 4.8 / 5 (6) | 0 |
Teams of highly respected Alzheimer's researchers failed to replicate what appeared to be breakthrough results for the treatment of this brain disease when they were published last year in the journal Science.
15 hours ago | 5 / 5 (1) | 2 |
Scientists at the National Institutes of Health report they have discovered in mouse studies that a small molecule released in the spinal cord triggers a process that is later experienced in the brain as ...
15 hours ago | 5 / 5 (2) | 0 |
Little is known about why asthma develops, how it constricts the airway or why response to treatments varies between patients. Now, a team of researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College, Columbia University Medical Center ...
15 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |
Ethnic background plays a surprisingly large role in how diabetes develops on a cellular level, according to two new studies led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
12 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |