It’s that time of year when all the soppy cards and expensive cuddly toys and chocolates come out, all offering the promise of love and romance; but what if you didn’t need any of that. What if love is just a chemical reaction and if you took a pill with an increased hormone level you could just fall in love with the person you want. That is the aim of Professor Larry Young who wants to identify the exact chain of chemical reactions the body undergoes to help love run smoothly.
Love is often one of the greatest questions in life. How do you know? Why them? When will it happen? Researchers around the world are trying to solve this question with the ultimate goal of creating a treatment that can enable anyone to fall in love with anyone. The answer to this is believed to lie in chemicals and hormones found in the brain. The hormone believed to be the most crucial is oxytocin.
Oxytocin is known to increase trust, improve eye gazing ability and improve emotion recognition in others and it’s these factors which make it is so fundamental to falling in love. Professor Young’s experiments are based on Prairie Voles which mate for life. In the experiments if the female voles were injected with oxytocin then they would mate with whichever male was around them.
This hormone has also been found to be present at lower levels in women who experienced abuse or neglect early on in their life which has led some scientists to discredit the theory that love is purely a chemical reaction and they believe that psychological, upbringing and sociological factors also have an influence.
Males however require a different hormone called vasopressin. This hormone promotes fatherly behaviour and pair bonding. When this chemical was introduced into a breed of meadow voles which aren’t monogamous they formed a new specie of monogamous meadow voles. Whilst a test in Swedish men showed men who had lower levels of vasopressin were less likely to marry and have more marital crises.
However with the research findings of such experiments being freely available some companies have already starting selling fragrances with these chemicals in and using the science behind it to claim they will make you fall in love. Although scientists dispute this fact stating the chemical concentrations aren’t high enough within the product to make any difference to the user.
So scientists may be on the way to unravelling one of lifes greatest mysteries but will the knowledge be utilised? The main issue is ethics – is it right to pick who you want to be with, what happens if the other person doesn’t want to fall in love with you, what happens if you change your mind and what is the cost of love? Scientists defend the research by stating if a treatment were available it would be used for people who suffer from social disorders, rather than the everyday person.
Science hasn’t actually discovered if love is purely a chemical reaction but it is getting ever closer to discovering the cocktail of chemicals which aid it, so make the most of the romance of Valentines and love because soon it might be come as common and mundane as doing your weekly shop.