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    The Science of Love, Desire and Attachment

    enFebruary 14, 2022

    Podcast Summary

    • The Biology behind Desire, Love, and AttachmentOur childhood attachment style affects our adult relationships, and biological mechanisms such as hormones and neurocircuits control desire and love. Oral contraception can prevent peak attraction during the menstrual cycle.

      The mechanisms of desire, love, and attachment have been existent for thousands of years and are strongly biologically driven. Our childhood attachment styles have much to do with how we attach and form relationships as adults, and the same neural circuits in the brain that underlie attachment between infant and caregiver are repurposed for adult romantic attachments. Whether or not we desire somebody, fall in love, and whether relationships continue to include the elements of desire and love over time are controlled by biological mechanisms such as hormones, neurochemicals, and neurocircuits in the brain. A woman's pre-op dilatory phase of the menstrual cycle seems to create a bi-directional attraction. However, oral contraception prevents this peak in perceived attractiveness.

    • The impact of menstrual cycle and contraception on mate selection and the potential of nootropic supplements.Women's menstrual cycle and contraception can affect their perception of men's attractiveness, while personalized nootropic supplements can improve cognitive and physical abilities. Research on romantic love needs to consider diverse types of relationships.

      Men's perception of women's attractiveness and women's preference for symmetrical men based on odors are influenced by where women are in their menstrual cycle, and taking oral contraception eliminates this effect. Odor is a powerful cue for mate selection and can be a deal breaker for many people. Personalized nootropic supplements tailored to specific cognitive and physical goals and needs can be a game changer. Most studies of romantic love have focused on monogamous, heterosexual love, but this does not rule out the possibility of similar or different mechanisms at play in non-monogamous or homosexual relationships.

    • Understanding the Role of Desire, Love, and Attachment in RelationshipsBoth desire and love are necessary for a successful relationship, and biological mechanisms play a crucial role in attachment. Insights from this session can help prevent the breakage of attachments in any relationship.

      Desire can mean both lust and a desire for a long-term partnership. The early 19th-century study suggests that love and desire are opposing factors. However, modern studies suggest that both are necessary for a successful relationship. Biological mechanisms play a crucial role in desire, love, and attachment. For instance, levels of vasopressin in Prairie voles determine whether they will be monogamous or non-monogamous. The literature on Prairie voles is vital in understanding the role of vasopressin in humans. The science behind the formation and breaking of attachments, as well as reattachment, will help us prevent the breakage of attachments. The tools and insights from this session can be useful regardless of our relationship status and goals.

    • Understanding Attachment Styles and Their Impact on Relationships.The strange situation task measures attachment styles in toddlers, which can change throughout life. Knowing your own attachment style can provide insight into relationship patterns and potential for change.

      One of the most robust findings in psychology is the notion of attachment styles. These attachment styles are measured using a methodology called the strange situation task. Through this task, toddlers fall into four different categories of attachment style: secure, anxious-ambivalent, avoidant-dismissive, and disorganized. Attachment styles are plastic and can change across the lifespan through specific processes. People with different attachment styles can also change the attachment styles of others. Understanding your own attachment style can help you answer important questions about your relationships. It's important to note that the data referenced in this episode are entirely from human studies, as there is limited ability to make direct connections between animal models and human behavior.

    • The Four Categories of Attachment Styles in ChildrenAttachment styles in childhood strongly predict romantic partnerships in adulthood. Securely attached children feel trust and are confident in their caregiver's availability, while insecurely attached children tend to avoid or show little emotion. Anxious ambivalent or resistant insecure children show clinginess and difficulty calming down, while disorganized or disoriented children exhibit odd physical postures and behaviors.

      The four categories of attachment styles in children include securely attached, insecurely attached or anxious avoidant, anxious ambivalent or resistant insecure, and disorganized or disoriented. These categories are strongly predictive of attachment styles in romantic partnerships later in life. Securely attached children feel confident that their caregiver is available and will be responsive to their needs, allowing them to explore novel environments with trust. Insecurely attached children tend to avoid or ignore caregivers and show little emotion when separated or reunited, with less dramatic physiological responses. Anxious ambivalent or resistant insecure children show distress before and after separation, being clingy and difficult to calm down on reunion. Disorganized or disoriented children tend to exhibit odd physical postures and behaviors, showing a lack of clear reaction to separation.

    • Understanding Attachment Templates for Better Romantic RelationshipsOur attachment templates, established in childhood, influence our adult romantic relationships. However, through neuroplasticity, we can modify insecure attachment styles and establish more secure bonds. 'Attached' provides guidance for this process.

      Our nervous system is tethered to the nervous systems of others, which is established through the template of attachment to primary caregivers in early childhood. This attachment template is reused for establishing romantic relationships later in life, affecting how we find, maintain, and break them. Neuroimaging studies support the bi-directional interaction between mother/child and how the release of different neurochemicals affects autonomic arousal. The good news is that these templates can shift over time through the process of neuroplasticity. Understanding the existence and malleability of these templates can be useful in establishing better, more secure bonds in adult romantic relationships. The book, 'Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find and Keep Love' by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller provides ways to modify insecure attachment styles to establish secure attachment.

    • The Importance of a Secure Attachment Style and how it's FormedDeveloping a secure attachment style is possible at any age, but it's crucial to protect it for stable and predictable long-term relationships. The autonomic nervous system and interactions with parents shape our attachment style, affecting our ability to feel desire, love, or attachment.

      Having a secure attachment style is important for stable and predictable long-term relationships. While it's possible to develop this attachment style at any age, it's important to protect it because it's also possible to become anxiously attached, even if you grew up in a stable attachment framework. The autonomic nervous system is a core element in forming and breaking loving attachments. It's hard-wired from birth, but interactions with parents tune it up, leading to a tendency to either be more alert and anxious or more calm. Our autonomic tone is how tight the Seesaw hinge is, determining how readily we tilt back and forth between states of alertness. Attachment is complex and involves multiple brain areas working together, making us feel as if we are in a state of desire, love, or attachment.

    • Understanding the Impact of Caregivers on Children's Autonomic Nervous System.Our autonomic nervous system is influenced by our childhood interactions and caregivers. We can intentionally regulate it using techniques like breathing and cold immersion to avoid being stuck in anxiousness or lack of energy. Parents should prioritize stress management to prevent their children from developing future health issues.

      Children tend to mimic the autonomic nervous systems of their primary caregiver. The autonomic nervous system is responsible for our reactions in response to a partner being present or leaving, and it can be adjusted through deliberate practices such as breathing techniques, cold immersion, or deliberate hyperventilation. Our childhood templates and interaction with caregivers can influence the tilt of our autonomic nervous system. With the right tools and techniques, we can adjust our autonomic Seesaw to help us regulate stress, alertness, and calmness better. This can help us avoid being stuck in anxiousness or lack of energy. The way parents react to stress also affects their children's physiology and the development of stress, distress, or trauma. Therefore parents should take stress management seriously to prevent their children from developing these health problems in the future.

    • The Role of Attachment Styles and Autonomic Nervous System in Desire, Love, and AttachmentUnderstanding your attachment style and regulating your own autonomic nervous system are important factors in healthy interdependence. Dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin play a significant role in desire, love, and attachment, and are released from the Rapha nucleus in the brain.

      Attachment styles and autonomic nervous system play a crucial role in desire, love, and attachment. Understanding your attachment style and recognizing where your autonomic nervous system tends to reside with or without your partner is important. Healthy interdependence is good, but regulating your own autonomic nervous system in the absence of your partner is equally important. Dopamine system in the brain is associated with desire, love, and attachment, mainly with motivation, craving, and pursuit. Serotonin and to some extent, oxytocin, are the predominant neurochemicals involved in quiescence and relaxation, which are associated with love and attachment. These neurochemicals are released from the Rapha nucleus in the back of the brain.

    • The Role of Neural Circuits in Love and AttachmentEmpathy, autonomic regulation, and emotional matching play crucial roles in falling in love and forming stable relationships. Understanding how these factors interact is key to relationship stability and ultimately, the continuation of our species.

      The neural circuits for empathy are crucial for falling in love and maintaining stable attachments. Autonomic regulation, including matching of emotional tone, is a vital principle for how we fall in love and form attachments. Pursuit is related to dopamine release and activation of the sympathetic nervous system, but sexual arousal is predominantly parasympathetically driven. Matching of emotional tone and complementarity of autonomic matching can be good or bad for the stability of a relationship. It's important to understand that when we talk about empathy and emotional matching, what we really mean is whether or not the autonomic Seesaw of one individual is driving the autonomic Seesaw of the other. This is a prerequisite to the propagation and expansion of our species.

    • The Neurological Arc of Sexual BehaviorSexual behavior involves a complex series of neurological processes involving both sympathetic and parasympathetic systems, which can help repair sexual function after spinal cord injury.

      The arc of mating involves sympathetic arousal for pursuit, then a tilt of the Seesaw for sexual arousal, and then a return to sympathetic response at the point of orgasm and ejaculation. Afterwards, there's a return to more parasympathetic activation which is thought to increase the exchange of pheromonal odors, pillow talk, and pair bonding. This process is built into the way our species propagates and is also observed in all mammalian species that mate. The neural circuits for sexual behavior and empathy coordinate with each other and reside in the autonomic nervous system, the prefrontal cortex and the insula. Understanding these neural circuits can help repair sexual function after spinal cord injury.

    • The Science of Communication and Empathy in RelationshipsEffective communication involves subtle cues like touch and pupil size, while empathy is crucial for attachment. The insula and prefrontal cortex are important neural circuits for autonomic matching, and positive delusion predicts long-term attachment in monogamous relationships. Touch is a fundamental aspect of the desire, love, and attachment phases of romantic relationships. The insular cortex helps link internal and external experiences, and positive delusion involves the belief that only one person can fulfill physical and emotional needs.

      Communication goes beyond words and sounds; it also involves subtle cues like pupil size and touch. Empathy is about autonomic matching and is crucial for attachment. The insula and prefrontal cortex are important neural circuits for autonomic matching, while positive delusion predicts long-term attachment in monogamous relationships. Desire, love, and attachment are three separate phases in romantic relationships, with desire typically coming first and touch being a fundamental aspect of the process. The insular cortex plays a crucial role in linking internal and external experiences, and positive delusion involves the belief that only a specific person can make one feel a certain way physically or emotionally.

    • Contempt and the Importance of Positive Delusions in RelationshipsContempt is the most powerful predictor of a break-up, but positive delusions are critical for stable relationships. Identifying and avoiding negative behaviors can help couples maintain their partnership over time.

      Positive delusions are critical for stable relationships. The Gottman's four horsemen of relationships are criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling, and contempt, with contempt being the most powerful predictor of breaking up. Contempt is the disregard for something that should be taken into account. It runs counter to all neural circuits for love and attachment. The antithesis of empathy, it's really looking at the other individual either accurately or inaccurately as somebody that you kind of despise. The work of the Gottman's and others have identified what makes people find appropriate partners for them and to maintain those partnerships over time. Negative behaviors between couples like the four horsemen can be observed in videos to predict whether the couple will stay together or break up.

    • Understanding the Neurocircuitry of Human Behavior and RelationshipsOur sex drive is a means to find potential partners, while love confirms deep attachment. Hormones like dopamine and testosterone motivate pursuit, while estrogen and serotonin influence physiological behaviors. Dr. Fisher's research provides great insights into understanding human behavior and relationships.

      Dr. Fisher's research shows that sex drive is a way to find potential partners while love only confirms a deep attachment. She also divided people into four categories based on data from dating sites. Those with high dopamine levels tend to be high sensation-seekers and novelty-seekers. Hormone systems like dopamine and testosterone collaborate to motivate pursuit, whereas estrogen and serotonin tend to work together for physiological related behaviors. Dr. Fisher's observations on neurocircuitry in humans and non-human primates are noteworthy and allow us to understand the sequence of recruitment of neural circuits in human behavior and relationships. Her studies involving data from millions of individuals provide great insight into understanding human behavior and relationships on a larger scale.

    • Why People with Similar Neurotransmitter Profiles Tend to Pair Up in RelationshipsKnowing your neurotransmitter profile can help you find a partner who matches your preferences, leading to more fulfilling relationships.

      People with different neurotransmitter profiles like dopamine, serotonin, testosterone, and estrogen tend to pair up with others with a similar profile. Those high in sensation-seeking dopamine tend to pair with creative explorers, while those with a preference for rules and stability tend to form relationships with others who prioritize the same. High-testosterone individuals, who are directive and boundary-pushing, tend to pair with nurturing people who prefer others to make major decisions. This preference for similar autonomic tone makes it simpler for individuals to match their nervous systems with others. Understanding these tendencies can help individuals create more fulfilling relationships by seeking out partners with similar preferences.

    • Understanding Autonomic Coordination in Romatic RelationshipsRecognize and respect your partner's tendencies, whether they are similar or different from yours. Improve self-awareness, adjust your autonomic nervous system, and gain cognitive empathy to navigate healthier relationships.

      In romantic relationships, people either pair up based on autonomic likeness or autonomic differences. While dopamine-seeking individuals may be attracted to similar partners, those with high serotonin preference may find a similar partner dull. The key lies in recognizing and respecting the other person's tendencies, whether they are similar or complementary to ours. Through better self-awareness, we can navigate healthier mate-seeking, healthy breakups, and long-term relationships. The autonomic coordination of desire, love, and attachment is the core of all relationships. Autonomic empathy is a third category that determines relationship dynamics. By adjusting our autonomic nervous system and gaining cognitive empathy, we can appreciate and understand what our partner is experiencing.

    • Opposites attract? How neural synchronization influences partner selection in relationships.Finding a partner with a different resting brain state rather than a similar one can lead to a successful romantic relationship. Integrating neuroscience and psychology is important in understanding human behavior and relationship dynamics.

      Neural synchronization between individuals happens during romantic interactions and can be measured by changes in brainwaves. A study found that individuals tend to select partners with resting brain states that are different or opposite to theirs instead of similar. This suggests that finding someone just like you or someone opposite to you is not the only way to create a successful romantic relationship. Instead, mapping individual neuroanatomical and neurophysiological findings onto subjective psychological categorizations is needed to better understand the dynamics of relationships. The study highlights the importance of studying neural synchronization in relationships and integrating neuroscience and psychology to gain a better understanding of human behavior.

    • Understanding the Science and Psychology Behind Falling in Love.Falling in love involves more than just physical attraction, it is influenced by the nervous system and deep emotional connections. It's possible to experience love and attachment with someone from a different background and absence doesn't always make the heart grow fonder.

      The process of falling in love is not limited to any specific category of attachment or mate seeking. Matching of autonomic nervous systems and resting state brain networks play a crucial role. The universality of love and the ability to fall in love can be triggered by asking 36 progressively more emotionally deep questions. It creates a delusional story about the exchange, reflecting some deeper attachment, leading people to feel certain levels of attachment or even love and desire for the other person. It's not necessary to pair up with someone with similar educational backgrounds or attractiveness. Opposites don't always attract, and neither do people tend to pair up with similar individuals. The idea of absence making the heart grow fonder exists, but there is also a biological mechanism for out of sight, out of mind.

    • Autonomic synchronization and its role in love, attachment, and attraction.Sharing personal narratives and experiences can create autonomic synchronization, leading to strong feelings of love and attachment. Self-perception plays a role in attraction, but there is no evidence linking specific personality types to infidelity.

      Exchanging personal narratives and stories with another person can lead to synchronization of autonomic nervous systems, which is a key factor in desire, love, and attachment. This synchronization can occur even when individuals are not physically together, as shown through a study on heart rate synchronization while listening to the same narrative. The establishment of a personal narrative can create autonomic synchronization and potentially lead to falling in love. Autonomic coordination is also present during shared experiences of the outside world and is essential for attachment. While there is no solid evidence linking certain personality types to infidelity, studies involving neuroimaging and subjective measures have shown that self-perception can affect attraction towards others.

    • How Self Expansion in Relationships Affects Attraction Towards Other PeopleSelf expansion in relationships can increase self efficacy and lead to lower activation in brain areas associated with assessing attractiveness of others. To make your partner feel good about themselves, provide self expansion gestures or statements.

      The self expansion model of close relationships proposes that people enter relationships for enhancing the self and increasing self efficacy, which makes us feel good about ourselves and more capable. Self expansion through the actions or statements of a significant other strongly influences how attractive people outside the relationship are perceived. Higher levels of self expansion lead to lower activation of brain areas associated with assessing attractiveness of others. Therefore, if you're with somebody who experiences a lot of self expansion, they would benefit from more self expansion gestures or statements from you.

    • Self Expansion and its Impact on Relationship Dynamics.Self expansion is crucial for maintaining a stable romantic partnership. Our biology and perception of self shape our attraction towards potential partners. Focusing on self growth can positively influence our relationship dynamics.

      A person who likes self expansion is vital to the dynamics of a relationship. In the absence of self expansion, people rate attractive alternative partners as more attractive. Relationship dynamics shapes our autonomic arousal, shapes our perception of self, and thereby shapes our perception of potential partners in the outside world. It is important to have a stable internal representation of ourselves, a stable autonomic nervous system, to be in a stable romantic partnership with another individual. Our biology, hormones, and pheromones, shape the way we choose, interpret, and act with potential romantic partners. It cannot be overemphasized that our biology plays a significant role in our attraction towards others.

    • The Role of Subconscious Processes in Chemistry, Desire, Love, and AttachmentUnderstanding the complex interplay of hormones and neurotransmitters involved in human attraction can deepen our understanding of ourselves and our relationships.

      Chemistry, desire, love, and attachment are driven by our subconscious processes, including primitive mechanisms that exist in all animals. While there is no simple relationship between testosterone and sex drive or estrogen and sex drive, a coordinated dance of both hormones leads to libido. Dopamine is involved in motivation and drive, which is required for increases in libido, but driving dopamine levels too high can be potentially hazardous as it can put people into a mode of seeking mates or mating, but they can't adjust their autonomic nervous system during actual mating behavior. There is a whole description of this that awaits us in a future episode. Understanding the biology behind these mechanisms is essential and can be explored through science-based tools.

    • The Role of Dopamine, Antidepressants, and Supplements in LibidoSimply increasing dopamine levels may not increase libido. Over-the-counter supplements like Maka, Gotu Kola, and Tribulus have shown to be effective in increasing libido but consultation with a physician is crucial before consuming them.

      Simply ramping up dopamine may not increase libido. Increase in dopamine levels may be due to various reasons, including recreational drug usage, and antidepressants. The dosage of such substances must be worked out with a physician for a healthy and balanced mind and body. Over-the-counter supplements like Maka, Got Ali, and Tribulus or tribulus have been found to be statistically significant in increasing libido. Maka has been shown to significantly increase libido, independent of hormone systems, and can offset SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction. However, it is important to check with a physician before taking such supplements as everyone's health and wellbeing is different.

    • Exploring Natural Supplements for Libido EnhancementMaca, tongkat ali, and tribulus terrestris are natural supplements that can help increase libido. It is crucial to consult with a doctor and monitor blood work before taking any supplement. Maka has shown a positive effect on women's libido, but more research is needed.

      Maca is a useful supplement for those seeking to increase libido, with no significant effect on testosterone or estrogen levels. Libido is influenced by multiple systems in the brain and body, including hormones like PEA and substances like tongkat ali and tribulus terrestris. Tongkat ali can increase free testosterone, while tribulus terrestris is commonly sold as an over-the-counter supplement for testosterone. It is important to monitor blood work and consult with a doctor before taking any supplements for libido, and there is no clear evidence on the need to cycle these supplements. There are fewer studies involving women, but Maka has shown a general positive effect on libido in women taking equivalent doses.

    • Tribulus, Maka, and Tonga Ali: Understanding Their Roles in Sexual DesireTribulus supplementation can increase free and bioavailable testosterone, but may not always result in an increase in libido. Maka and Tonga Ali can also affect sexual desire via their impact on the testosterone and estrogen system or through neurochemicals. Understanding these substances can aid in navigating relationships.

      Tribulus can increase free and bioavailable testosterone in certain populations, especially in females, but may not always result in an increase in libido. The dosage and duration of tribulus supplementation also play a crucial role in its effectiveness. Other substances like Maka and Tonga Ali can also contribute to significant increases in sexual desire by adjusting the testosterone and estrogen system or through other neurochemicals and features. Overall, the psychology and biology of desire, love, and attachment are complex and require further research to fully understand. Nonetheless, this information can be useful in navigating past, present, and future relationships.

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    Dr. Casey Means: Transform Your Health by Improving Metabolism, Hormone & Blood Sugar Regulation

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    GUEST SERIES | Dr. Matt Walker: Improve Sleep to Boost Mood & Emotional Regulation

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