May 29, 2024

Love potion No. 9 is on the way

What happens when it wears off?
Research into the biology of pair bonding could lead to drugs which induce "love", predicts a researcher in the latest issue of Nature. Larry Young, of the National Primate Research Center, in Atlanta, says that love is far from being a uniquely human emotion. Just as pharmaceutical therapies have been developed for fear and phobias, scientists are now homing in on the neuropeptides and neurotransmitters which may explain how love works. His conjecture is based on research into the mating habits of the prairie vole. A hormone called vasopressin in these animals stimulates pair bonding and paternal instincts. A variant of the hormone’s receptor gene, AVPR1A, predicts the likelihood that a male will bond with a female. And, he says, the same gene is associated with variations in marital happiness amongst humans. Men with one variant are more like to remain unmarried or to have an unhappy marriage.

All this presents enormous commercial opportunities. Already at least one company, Liquid Trust, is marketing a perfume which improves business and personal relationships. ("One way that I can gauge the difference of Liquid Trust," says its website, "is that I work in a bar part time as a second job. My tips have gone up about five times the amount I got before! – G from UK") But in the future, muses Young, "perhaps genetic tests for the suitability of potential partners will one day become available, the results of which could accompany, and even override, our gut instincts in selecting the perfect partner.". ~ Nature, Jan 8