The speakers of Open University traditionally presented reports connected with various fields. This time the guests attended the lectures on ecological myths, economic forecasts, mass culture`s phenomena and innovative industry. Taking place immediately before Valentine's Day Open University also included a lecture by Marina Karpenko, PhD in biology, who talked about a biological basis of love. Here are some excerpts from her report.
In the mid 1950s two Canadian neuropsychologists James Olds and Peter Milner carried out an experiment with rats to show that they can be scared. However they made a mistake by implanting an electron within a part of brain responsible for pleasure instead of the “fear center.” The rats repeatedly pressed levers connected with electrodes to receive tiny jolts of current. They did it every six seconds and nothing could divert their attention neither food nor rats of the opposite sex. The researchers put forward a hypothesis that rats felt pleasure and euphoria.
Then there was one more experiment: to get pleasure rats had to press a lever even after a light signal. If it pressed a lever previously it didn`t get a cocaine`s injection.
“It turned out that dopamine, a chemical substance produced by neurons of the “pleasure center,” appeared when a rat sees a light. It has not received the injection but it has satisfied with anticipation. Having pressed the lever it got the cocaine and dopamine rate increased more,” said Ms. Karpenko.
According to the speaker, the feeling of this rat is equivalent to human`s being in love when people constantly desire to be closer to a partner. Then a research team headed by anthropologist Helen Fisher, contributed to this field. Using MRI and PET systems they came to the point that dopamine release triggers various physiological reaction connected with “lovesickness.” Someone who has seen his or her lover can be compared with the rat, which has seen the light.
Apart from the “pleasure center” dopamine also affects two parts of the frontal lobe; the first one is responsible for priority setting, the second one helps to respond to changes in the environment. That is why one scarcely thinks of anything else except a beloved.
In spite of the fact that we can analyze these processes scientifically it is difficult to break up with somebody because dopamine continues its` releasing. However the more we suffer the less dopamine`s production. Some people even fall into depression, which causes chronic fatigue and anhedonia.
“If you feel that your depression turns into a large problem visit a doctor immediately,” noted the expert.
Unfortunately pills will not solve this problem at the very moment. It is very important of follow a physician`s order because inaccurately proportioning leads to so-called “dopamine trap” when one becomes addicted to pleasure deriving as the rat, which constantly presses the lever.
Marina Karpenko also talked about the connection between dopamine rate and some serious diseases. According to a well-known dopamine hypothesis of schizophrenia, increased level of the hormone affects the ability to focus an attention and causes hyperactivity. Reduced dopamine level is also very dangerous: it leads to Parkinson's disease, which paralyses the “pleasure center” and triggers sleep and sex drive loss.