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Is being in love just a chemical reaction?
This is a computer model showing the structure of the neurotransmitter and hormone oxytocin, with the atoms as colour-coded spheres.
It’s all down to a molecule called oxytocin. Oxytocin is sometimes called the ‘love molecule’ or the ‘cuddle hormone’. Studies in prairie voles show that it strengthens the bond between two individuals and promotes feelings such as trust. By contrast, blocking the effects of oxytocin makes these otherwise monogamous animals behave promiscuously. The latest research on humans confirms this – one new study shows that spraying oxytocin into attached men’s noses made them stay further away from women they found attractive (Scheele et al, J Neurosci 2012).
Ross HE et al. Variation in oxytocin receptor density in nucleus accumbens has differential effects on affiliative behaviours in monogamous and polygamous voles. J Neurosci 2009;29(5):1312-8.
– dark grey
– light grey
Oxygen – red Nitrogen – blue
Sulphur – yellow