Implications for the Neurobiology of Love

Thomas R. Insel

in Altruism and Altruistic Love

Published in print April 2002 | ISBN: 9780195143584
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199848119 | DOI:
Implications for the Neurobiology of Love

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Monogamous mammals are found in many different taxa and in diverse environments. There are two neuropeptide hormones, oxytocin and vasopressin. These two are found exclusively in mammals, but they belong to a family of structurally related neuropeptides implicated in sociosexual behaviors of reptiles, amphibia, and birds. All neurohormones act via specific receptors. After it is released from nerve endings the hormone binds to receptors that initiate a series of intracellular events. There are few genomic differences between prairie and montane voles. Humans have oxytocin and vasopressin; both hormones are released during copulation. We cannot say that attachment or altruism in humans involves oxytocin and vasopressin, the phylogenetic tradition is impressive. Hormones from the hypothalamus, like oxytocin and vasopressin, may modify human behavior, but due to the dominance of the cortex, intellectual, spiritual, and cultural influences ultimately may determine human attachments independent of hormonal state.

Keywords: monogamous mammals; oxytocin; vasopressin; neurohormones; prairie; montane voles; copulation

Chapter.  4206 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social Psychology

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