Elias and Michael via Facebook asked:
Can you use the tricks of neuroscience to make somebody fall into, and stay in, love with you?
We posed this question to Dr Alex Kogan, Cambridge University. Audio answer available here and transcipt will be on the site shortly.
Alex - The tricks of neuroscience, I'm not so sure, but if you want to make somebody fall in love with you, be nice to them. If you want to make somebody stay in love with you, be nice to them. You don’t need to resort to pharmacology and other tricks like that. All that really isn’t anywhere near has worked out as a simple, age-old sentiments of what's a good partner, what makes a good relationship. I would focus mostly on that, to be honest.
Hannah - So, in terms of the things that you can buy over the internet, so for example, Amazon I think sells pheromones, and you can also buy oxytocin sprays.
Aleks - Oxytocin is a neuropeptide in the sense that it can work both as neurotransmitter, so talking between synapses, but also as a hormone, so talking between different parts of the body. They're extremely ancient. So, we believe that they’ve been around for at least 700 million years.
We find them in a whole host of animals and they're involved in many processes related to pair bonding, maternal care-giving, lactation, giving birth, potentially mate guarding. And so, there's this idea that it might be one of the things is really important for falling in love, keeping as monogamous and related processes.
We’re starting to discover all these negative effects of oxytocin. So for example, in recent studies, they’ve shown that when people get oxytocin administered intranasally, they could actually feel more envy and be more gloating than people that don’t.
We’ve shown in other studies that when for certain people who are very anxious about their emotional attachments, oxytocin makes them worse. They start to remember people more negatively. So, it really depends on the person and if you're a person that things that you really need the oxytocin to help you out, you might actually be a person that might have the most negative consequences for.
I’d be very, very careful with these pharmacological solutions. It’s a young science we’re really struggling to only probe, will last for 10 or 20 years, the side effects for humans and it’s a long way to go.