♥Taming the Tiger.

Submitted by WutheringH on
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Hello all!

Iv'e found your perspective on the issue of healing relationships via maintaining a routine of bonding behaviours to be an interesting and most intriguing proposal. The prospect of attempting to maintain Oxytocin production in the limbic system via the 'exchanges' to lead to a greater bond seems to me to make a lot of sense. It's my personal belief that the majority of relationships breakdown simply because fundamentally neurochemistry changes and thus subconsciously we emotively experience distance,discontent,the grass is greener etc... and this gets expressed consciously via feasibly picking out things that we observe in are respective partner that we don't like,need to change etc. Now i know many people will disagree here. A) As i respect it's a very deterministic perspective and many people are not comfortable with this stance (I personally side with the idea that the subconscious is the big guy dictating all our desires/intuition/feelings etc.) B) As there are genuine cases where external circumstances really do damage a relationship. Breaching of trust for example. However, note how at the start of a budding romantic relationship in the heat of infatuation 'negative' character and personality traits are eagerly swept aside. Crucially consciously swept aside. People register there there, yet later on 9/10 out of ten these exact traits will be what people express and dictate to be the catalyst to their decline in interest. Or additionally the line "He/She's changed" springs to mind. Have they really? or perhaps more likely our perception of them has.

I guess that those pesky vole experiments tell us a lot. The will to want to maintain Monogamous behaviour is dictated in a large part by the stimulation of the closely related Vasopressin and Oxytocin receptors. A lack of these and promiscuous behaviour becomes more rewarding and 'wins out' so to speak. Or at least becomes more rewarding. Now, as i stated before, I think you guys are really onto something by trying to stimulate the Neuroscience of a very primitive part of the brain, trying to tame the tiger if you will. However I'd like to raise the idea that some cases might be less hopeful than others. Clearly some humans are going to have increasingly hyper reactive dopamine reward centers, thus be far more enticed on a subconscious level to pursue novel relationships and subsequently a big pay off in dopamine (falling in love all over again.) Respectively some people will have a lesser quantity of Vasopressin and Oxytocin receptors and thus won't be inclined to bond longterm anyway. Top this off with a lack of mirror neurons activity and therefore lack of empathy and you have someone biologically prone to short term relationships. Or if their feeling a bit more dedicated, serial marriage. The cruelty of it is I think a majority of these people are inclined to express a want of long term love. Rarely do people enter into marriage thinking its going to decline a few years down the line! Yet if they settle it seems likely that they will feel far less emotional contentment as they simply are not wired to enjoy this path. Does anyone have any anecdotes to challenge this logic? I guess theoretically you could argue that some people fade out of various relationships and then have a happy marriage later where the feelings of passion and love are maintained. However i would still personally argue that patterns rule in relationships. People that divorce are prone to further divorce down the line. I would stand by this being still biological rather than an environmental factor of knowing they can mentally survive and process divorce. What do you guys think?

An exception in data to this trend appears to be the increasing occurrence of remarrying to first loves and childhood sweethearts. These remarriages appear to actually break the trend and have have a higher probability of working out. To me again this strikes as the deep subconcious winning out. Logically the first person we fall well and truly in love with should be the least suitable person to maintain a marriage. In a rational sense at this stage in life we know very little about what qualities will transfer to a longterm mate. Most people fall in love totally innocently and without even questioning if this person is totally suitable. Its raw unregulated emotive heaven. Hence i feel a fair few people carry a flame for their first love somewhere deep in their inner being..Not all by any means, but some. Again pretty primitive part of the brain at work here i imagine. If anyone could offer any insight into why this bond could retain such a presence to some people from a neurological sense. I would love to hear peoples suggestions..?

Another area i would love to throw open to a little debate is that a fair few journals of late have been churning out the fact that roughly 1 in 10 people (according to rather small samples admittedly) remain passionately in love. Passion as in the infatuation stage that this site readily admits fades in most couples hence targeting the 'deeper' attachment sides of things. These results come from FMRI scans that perhaps can be interpreted a bit 'artistically' however its clear in my opinion that these people are having an entirely differing neurochemical response to the stimuli of their partner then most people.. They don't slip into the position of the state of 'deep attachment' being the dominate theme keeping that person enticed. Which bodes the question.. why?! No doubt these people engage in frequent sex (can't be sure but likely they have pro orgasm sex) and yet no dimming of passion. I really struggle to think of a evolutionary reasoning for this.. attachment is one thing, super attachment another. In a hostile mating environment the grief of losing your partner when your emotive response to them has been sustained at this level for so long would be intense. Making no sense at all. Considering are understanding that humans are normally wired to be a little bit promiscuous and a little bit monogamous is based largely on it making sense from the historical perspective of raising children for four years then off you go to a new partner.

Clearly these people engage in frequent bonding behaviour of touch etc. However i would deem this as being caused by the neurobiological state as it is rather than being induced via these bonding behaviours (not that i don't think they can aid keeping a relationship alive, I do! Im trying them out myself..) Peoples thoughts?

I think what people are trying to do here is a clever thing, the fact that it ties into ancient traditions is even more interesting and I would love to meet some more of the community. I must admit i would love to hear Marnia's perspective on some of the above! amongst other as well of course!

(if this is in the wrong thread for this kind of thing can a Mod move it) Thanks.

Interesting post

It's fine to post anywhere, and I have also enabled you to blog if you want to re-post there so you can keep the thread there if you prefer.

As I said in my book, I think people do differ, and that some are more naturally monogamous than others as a matter of genes or life experience that has altered dopamine sensitivity so as to make them novelty seekers or impulsives. (Although people assume those traits are always genetic, I think it will turn out that with enough hyperstimulation we can dysregulate our dopamine sensitivity even if we start out within normal ranges as a genetic matter.)

My point is that, by learning which behaviors increase habituation between partners and which tend to counter the process, we can, to a degree, "steer" for the results we want. In short, maybe those who aren't natural "swans" can still find monogamy quite enjoyable, when they wouldn't have otherwise. And even natural swans may, by engaging in excess, may find themselves uncharacteristically restless.

Like you, I'm fascinated by the existence of this approach in other cultures. To me this suggests that we're talking about a hidden humanity-wide potential. Of course there will be outliers on both ends: those who can bond despite lots of hot sex, and those who are born to roam, regardless of approach. But most of us are somewhere in the middle.

Speaking of those natural swans, I'd be really interested in how many bonding behaviors they engage in naturally. Scientists haven't understood the significance of those behaviors, and therefore haven't been controlling for them. But it may be that a lot of that minority (swans) who have conventional sex without sliding into habituation are engaging in lots of bonding behaviors - and that if they weren't, they'd be in the same boat as the other 87% who experience habituation after the honeymoon neurochemicals wear off.

I would agree with your points that perception is everything when it comes to relationship harmony (and that the same reality that is "charming" under the influence of honeymoon neurochemicals registers as annoying under the influence of too much sexual satiation), and perception is strongly influenced by neurochemistry. Maybe I'm deterministic, too. I certainly think biology has plans for our love lives, and that patterns indeed rule if we don't consciously steer for greater neurochemical balance.

That said, oxytocin apparently has a rather unique property. In some cases it has been shown that the more we make, the more receptors for it we produce. This is the opposite of dopamine, which down-regulates when we produce excess dopamine. In other words, it may be that by conscious use of daily bonding behaviors we actually alter brain structure in terms of oxytocin receptors, and that in this way patterns can gradually be altered from within.

My husband laughingly says that he has "sprouted new OT receptors" during the course of our relationship. His whole view of relationship has changed. Instead of "I" +"I", he feels like "we." Obviously, SOMEthing is going on at a neurochemical level, and it may have something to do with oxytocin or vasopressin.

I think very strong pair bonds DO serve a purpose in humans - even though evolution doesn't generally "like" monogamy. Monkeys who have lousy parents ARE lousy parents. Looking around, it seems pretty evident that humans who have lousy parents are also challenged when they become parents.

In other words, human bonds that are too flimsy don't serve human evolution because human children take so long to mature. Having a two-parent environment for most of their minority conditions them to supply the same secure environment for their own offspring. In other words, transition every four years probably isn't ideal. Ideal might be "apparently stable monogamy, with a hint of cheating on rare occasions of genetic opportunity." On the other hand total sexual monogamy would be risky for the reasons you say. Death of a partner would knock the other partner out of the gene pool. Hence the tension between our breeding and bonding programs...just as we discuss at length in our book. Smile

Not sure I got all of your points, as I'm in a bit of a hurry. So feel free to raise points again if they weren't addressed.

Just curious...what have you read of our material? Book? Blogs? Articles on this site?

I must admit I haven't read

I must admit I haven't read the books, Im a bit of a fanatic (dare I say addict!) for information and so have had a little feast on your sites articles and the forum in part as well. I'm studying in the Neuroscience field and as of late specifically the neurology of addiction. Hence I was draw to the site via a debate amongst friends as to the nature of addiction being linked to Dopamine's role in the reward center. Regardless of whether the addiction is chemically or behaviourally induced. We do a lot of study in regards to opiates and withdrawal from opiates (a notoriously difficult challenge that many people don't manage to achieve) and i'm inclined to agree that the reward center can be skewed and become hyperstimulated as you say. To the extent that an opiate addict in withdrawal really does not find anything in normal life stimulating (much as i gather an extreme porn addict struggles to find vanilla sexuality interesting?).

Whilst its a bit of a jump i'd put money on the fact that its fairly safe to say that promiscuous behaviour likely breeds promiscuous behaviour because a form of habitation to the 'kick' of novel partners occurs and thus to the brain the prospect of monogamy simply isn't rewarding enough. As you say "a natural swan might find themselves restless" again I'd bring this back to some of our observations in addiction studies.. We often see a batch of people that are not typical of the usual demographic of recreational drug users. Before drug use they lead lives content with pattern and activities that don't offer overly intense stimulation, think of someone that likes to read a lot and is content to spend a few hours each day playing chess or the likes. This makes them content. For whatever reason they encounter life problems and choose to medicate via drugs. The unlucky few that end up on opiates and choose to face to battle of withdrawal display VERY different behaviours in their day to day life. Gambling, visually intense video games and casual sex all become far more present. It seems that the brain is craving the high levels of dopamine and so the subjects are drawn to these behaviours to fill this 'void'. Quite a different person from the chess player at the start I think you'll agree! From a sexual perspective what your saying regarding orgasm ties into this perspective to a large extent. Fill the void with more stimulation!

I must admit i have a vested interest in wanting to think a behavioural stimulus can really change neurochemistry. I think Im likely one of those 'born to roam' my father was a serial cheater and i had to witness his actions destroy my wonderful mother. I seem to find that in my own personal relationships my interest always fades fast, despite them being wonderful woman that many people would kill to have as a life partner! I recognise the SAME pattern happening every time and Im more than aware that its the neurochemistry changing as it always does. Eventually i slip into depression from the guilt of drastic changing feelings and I leave the relationship behind.

From a rational perspective though i hate the single life, a game of highs but also lows i'd rather not endure. It just seems my 'mean genes' truly have other ideas for me! As of now i'd rather not be in any relationship, iv'e caused to much mental anguish over the years for others! I'd love to hear if anyone on this board has gone from promiscous tendencies to being content in a monogamous one. Hell, i wouldn't even want 'happiness' just not depression!

Interesting about the upregulation of the Oxytocin regulators! Any chance you could link me to any reports or journals you got this information from? Love the fact that it might prove the old adage of the "more you give, the more you get" when it comes to romance!

Also to play devils advocate here, a dear friend of mine is a no sex before marriage kind of girl. She's been in two circumstances of having a potential mate, yet in both cases she's gone cold on them. Describing the initial attraction as having gone. Yet no hot sex between the two, rather, ample bonding behaviour. Massage giving,cuddles,deep eye gazing, the works so to speak. It would seem even in this case that orgasm wasn't the factor to drive the two apart.

Additionally i remember reading a journal that suggested it was the increased production of Oxytocin that lead the Dopamine regulators to downregulate. Makes sense as Oxytocin is well know to help keep cravings to a min, in this case however its quite literally arguably the cravings for the other lover. Thus coming back to these swans again (you can tell Im jealous right?!) How, as the FMIRs suggest do the two (passion and attachment) coexist? Presumably these couples bonding behaviours keep the Oxytocin flowing but yet in the FMIRs the meso-limbic reward centre was full of activity. Suggesting the original biological process of passion and yearning was still very much at work. Your thoughts on this one?

Also, not to rant on anymore but do you think it would be fair to rubbish the pop culture notion of the "one"? Each lover you have in a life time really should produce a very atypical feeling as ultimately they are just a stimulus (at least at the start) for your dopamine reward system to have little party over. Thus we'd be better off with the rational approach of trying to build our relationships rather than expecting 'feeling'. At the end of the days whilst you can appreciate the intricate nature of your current loves respect quirks and consciously digest them. You can do the same with a friend (yet no swooning takes place over new friends!) and thus i suspect those inner feelings (the ones the concept of the 'one' are supposed to invoke) are really outside of our control... Bar your ideas in relation to attachment. Which is why i feel these ideas have the potential to be so progressive.

Again what do you think. Time to rubbish vast quantities of pop culture nonsense regarding romance? I hate to think of the amount of wonderful relationships that have been ruined by the high of an affair under the idea of having found 'true love' at last!

Hi -tried to comment in sequence

Your observation about the group opiate addicts who are not typical, strongly applies to many with porn addiction. Since sex is a natural reinforcer, we believe Interent porn is addictive to a far higher percentage than are substances. Sex is a behavioral stimulus, and we are convinced it downregulates D2 receptors (along with other addictive changes) as do substance addictions.

Here's a link to our Delta FosB and sexual behavior section.

New research shows that sexual activity can elevate Delta FosB to levels found in other addictions. From this, it is clear that Delta FosB is there to sensitize animals to sex. "Let's do it again!" In a few experiments they increased Delta FosB above levels that could be produced naturally with sexual activity (like Internet porn, or sexual addictions?). The rats really wanted to get it on, and developed a conditioned place preference, as addicts do.

STUDY: We have shown that this reinforced sexual behavior can be enhanced by overexpression of ΔFosB in the NAc in the context of subthreshold sexual experience, analogous to the enhancement in instrumental responses to cocaine, morphine, or food consumption following similar overexpression of ΔFosB (Colby et al., 2003, Olausson et al., 2006, Zachariou et al., 2006). This enhancement in sexual interactions with the male following sexual experience was mirrored by the acquisition of a conditioned place preference.

Our first introduction to oxytocin upregulating its own receptors was in The Oxytocin Factor, pages 60-61, by Kerstin Uvana Modberg, MD, PHD. She's an oxytocin researcher, so we figured she had it right. No references though.
I've seen it elswhere, but I can't find it. It's clear that the receptor upregulates in the uterus and breast during pregnancy, and I always thought the brain. However, oxytocin does downregulate its receptor outside the CNS.

I did find this research, though, which may hint at why karezza/bonding behaviors modify patterns with time. The last sentence implies (I think) that oxytocin upregulates oxytocin or oxytocin receptors. Note that oxytocin inhibits CRF, which appears to be a major player in addiction mechanisms, and in in stress-related relapse.

Hypothalamic oxytocin mediates adaptation mechanism against chronic stress in rats.
Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2010 Oct;299(4):G946-53. Epub 2010 Aug 5.

Zheng J, Babygirija R, Bülbül M, Cerjak D, Ludwig K, Takahashi T.
Department of Surgery, Medical College of Wisconsin, Zablocki Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Milwaukee, USA.


Accumulation of continuous life stress (chronic stress) often causes gastric symptoms. Although central oxytocin has antistress effects, the role of central oxytocin in stress-induced gastric dysmotility remains unknown. Solid gastric emptying was measured in rats receiving acute restraint stress, 5 consecutive days of repeated restraint stress (chronic homotypic stress), and 7 consecutive days of varying types of stress (chronic heterotypic stress). Oxytocin and oxytocin receptor antagonist were administered intracerebroventricularly (icv). Expression of corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) mRNA and oxytocin mRNA in the paraventricular nucleus (PVN) of the hypothalamus was evaluated by real-time RT-PCR. The changes of oxytocinergic neurons in the PVN were evaluated by immunohistochemistry. Acute stress delayed gastric emptying, and the delayed gastric emptying was completely restored after 5 consecutive days of chronic homotypic stress. In contrast, delayed gastric emptying persisted following chronic heterotypic stress.
The restored gastric emptying following chronic homotypic stress was antagonized by icv injection of an oxytocin antagonist. Icv injection of oxytocin restored delayed gastric emptying induced by chronic heterotypic stress.
CRF mRNA expression, which was significantly increased in response to acute stress and chronic heterotypic stress, returned to the basal levels following chronic homotypic stress. In contrast, oxytocin mRNA expression was significantly increased following chronic homotypic stress. The number of oxytocin-immunoreactive cells was increased following chronic homotypic stress at the magnocellular part of the PVN. Icv injection of oxytocin reduced CRF mRNA expression induced by acute stress and chronic heterotypic stress. It is suggested that the adaptation mechanism to chronic stress may involve the upregulation of oxytocin expression in the hypothalamus, which in turn attenuates CRF expression.

As to explanations on the friend who didn't have sex, but the relationships soured...I don't know. These things happen with or without sex, of course. We advocate intercourse, so maybe it would have been different (or not) with karezza-style lovemaking.

QUOTE: I remember reading a journal that suggested it was the increased production of Oxytocin that lead the Dopamine regulators to downregulate

I'm confused. Do you mean down regulation of dopamine autoreceptors, or regular receptors?
I've thought of the oxytocin-dopamine as a circular relationship when it comes to sexual behavior. That they can stimulate each other. But the relationship is a bit dizzying. It's clear that dopamine neurons have oxytocin receptors.

Here's a link to a graph on oxytocin/dopamine relationship - SCROLL DOWN

I don't have any comments on the "swans." Just what Marnia said.

The one? Yes indeed, why do we flip out over a particular individual, and not others? Helen Fisher, I think, talks about early childhood "maps" getting activated. Who knows? Maybe it's past-life connections? Or maybe if we were highly evolved, we would have those feelings for every being. I do know that love can be nurtured through karezza.