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January 2011



Recent Posts


Love can ease pain, say brain researchers

Love hurts, at least according to many a romantic songwriter, but it may also help ease pain, US scientists suggest.

Brain scans suggest many of the areas normally involved in pain response are also activated by amorous thoughts.

Stanford University researchers gave 15 students mild doses of pain, while checking if they were distracted by gazing at photos of their beloved.

The study focused on people early in a romance, journal PLoS One reported, so the “drug of love” may wear off.

The scientists who carried out the experiment used “functional magnetic resonance imaging” (fMRI) to measure activity in real-time in different parts of the brain.

It has been known for some time that strong feelings of love are linked to intense activity in several different brain regions.

These include areas linked to the brain chemical dopamine, which produces the brain’s feel-good state following certain stimulants – from eating sweets to taking cocaine.

“Light up”

The Stanford University researchers had noticed that when we feel pain, some of the same areas “light up” on the scans – and wondered whether one might affect the other.

They recruited a dozen students who were all in the first nine months of a relationship, defined as “the first phase of intense love”.

Each was asked to bring in a picture of the object of their affection and photos of what they deemed an equally attractive acquaintance.

“Start Quote

It’s important to recognise that people who feel alone and depressed may have very low pain thresholds, whereas the reverse can be true for people who feel secure and cared for”

End Quote Professor Paul Gilbert University of Derby

While their brains were scanned, they were shown these pictures, while a computer controlled heat pad placed in the palm of their hand was set up to cause them mild pain.

They found that viewing the picture of their beloved reduced perceptions of pain much more than looking at the image of the acquaintance.

Dr Jarred Younger, one of the researchers involved, said that the “love-induced analgesia” appeared to involve more primitive functions of the brain, working in a similar way to opioid painkillers.

“One of the key sites is the nucleus accumbens, a key reward addiction centre for opioids, cocaine and other drugs of abuse.

“The region tells the brain that you really need to keep doing this.”

Read in Full:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-11537063

‘Selfless Genes Attract Mates’

Article Date: 14 Oct 2010 – 2:00 PDT

There is genetic evidence that selfless or altruistic behaviour may have evolved because it was one of the qualities our ancestors looked for in a mate.

This is the finding of Dr Tim Phillips and colleagues from the University of Nottingham and Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College, London whose results were published in the British Journal of Psychology last week.

The study investigated whether altruistic behaviour evolved as a result of sexual selection. 70 identical and 87 non-identical female twin pairs completed questionnaires relating to their own levels of altruism (e.g. ‘I have given money to charity’) and how desirable they found this in potential mates (e.g. ‘Once dived into a river to save someone from drowning’).

Statistical analysis of their responses revealed that genes influenced variation in both the subjects’ preference towards a mate and their own altruistic behaviour an indication that sexual selection might be at work.

Interestingly, there was also a genetic correlation between the two. This suggested that, in our evolutionary past, those with a stronger mate preference towards altruistic behaviour mated more frequently with more altruistic people, thus further supporting a link with sexual selection.

Read in Full:  http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/204514.php

New Research Links Visual Cues To Male Sexual Memory

Article Date: 13 Oct 2010 – 4:00 PDT

A new study published in Applied Cognitive Psychology finds that college-aged men are very likely to remember a woman’s initial sexual interest (attraction or rejection), especially when the woman in question is thought to be attractive, is dressed more provocatively, and expresses positive sexual interest.

In the study the men were shown full-body photographs of college-aged women who expressed cues of sexual interest or rejection. The participating males represented mixed sexual histories, and a capacity for varying degrees of sexually aggressive behavior.

The ability to discriminate accurately between photos that the males had and had not seen previously indicated good memory for women’s sexual interest. Throughout the study they were presented with previously viewed photos and new photos of the same women in which they communicated the opposite cue (e.g., rejection instead of sexual interest). The average young man showed excellent memory for whether women initially displayed sexual interest or rejection. However, males showed better memory for the woman’s sexual-interest when the woman was broadly more appealing to him: she initially expressed positive sexual interest, was dressed more provocatively, and was thought to be attractive.

Read in Full:  http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/204409.php

You Always Hurt the One You Love

3 Danger Signs Your Partner May Be Having An Affair

By Elvira G. Aletta, Ph.D.

Mira Kirshenbaum is one of my favorite relationship experts. She has written two books that I often recommend to my clients: Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay and Women and Love. They are easy reads, full of compassion and insight.

As I contemplated writing a post about how couples become vulnerable to affairs I read this interview of Ms. Kirshenbaum where she really says it all: Is Your Partner Cheating on You? on Mira’s blog. Here she talks not only about real risk factors, she also rules out signs that could be misread. In other words, not all suspicious signs point to an affair.

“…it’s not so much about warning signs. It’s about risk factors. And if you know what the risk factors are, you can do something about them and have a better relationship to boot…”

Here is an excerpt from the interview.

The Interviewer: …can you assess the risk that your relationship will be hit by an affair, that your partner (or maybe you!) will end up cheating one day soon?

Mira: Here are the three big, real danger signs that your relationship is at risk of one of you having an affair.

1) Things aren’t good between you. The two of you are distant, disconnected, fighting, not making love as often as you used to, and not having fun when you are together.

2) You’re leading very separate lives. You’re not spending much of your free time together.

3) Even if you’re not fighting and even if you are spending time together, if you start having the feeling that your guy just doesn’t care about you that much any more, that there’s a ‘whatever’ quality to how he treats you, then there’s a real risk that he is having an affair.

Q: Is this a risk factor? He flips the script. All of the sudden he wants to know where you are all the time and with whom. He’s realized that if he is cheating and it’s not that hard, well, you might be cheating on him too.

Mira: If a guy is cheating the last thing he wants to do is ruffle the waters. So he’s going to want to just tread very softly. It’s unlikely that he’s going to start acting all suspicious of you. If for no other reason than he’s not going to want to have the whole cheating issue out there in the open. If he flips the script on you, then he’s at risk of your flipping the script back on him. This has never happened in all the cases I’ve worked with. Only a very stupid person would do this.

Q: Is this a risk factor? Suddenly, Mr. Alpha Male is grooming “down there,” and will only wear designer underwear, whereas before his no-name tighty-whities were just fine.

Mira: Believing this kind of thing is a recipe for a lifetime of painful paranoia. It’s true that occasionally a guy who is having an affair will make certain changes in appearance, but lots of guys who are not cheating are doing things like that too! Men suddenly develop little pockets of vanity for seemingly no reason at all. It’s dangerous to read too much into it. And you’ll just make yourself miserable.

Q: Is this a risk factor: You’re having way more sex than usual. Alternate signs (same vein): He’s whistling or humming nonstop. Nothing phases him anymore. If he was short tempered before, now he’s downright giddy because he’s getting some from you and another woman.

Mira: Men cheat when there’s some disconnection or unhappiness in the relationship. The problem for guys doesn’t have to be sexual. And so it’s very possible that your guy could be cheating even though your sex life is basically the same. It’s [a] serious mistake to think that affairs are necessarily sexual. The risk of the affair being sexual is in reverse proportion to how good sex is between you. So a couple could have a good sexual relationship but then the guy cheats anyway and that would be because he’s unhappy in other parts of the relationship. If your guy is suddenly going around all happy and whistling and it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with you, then you need to find out why. I wouldn’t necessarily go to his cheating as the first reason but it could be.

Q: Is this a risk factor? He’s super protective of his gadgets. Touch his phone or computer and he flips out. That’s because it’s his lifeline to her. The number one ways that trysts are found out nowadays are via emails, chats, cell phone texts or bills.

Read in Full:  http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2010/10/13/3-danger-signs-your-partner-may-be-having-an-affair/

The “Sweet Spot” That Makes Online Dating Sites “Sticky”

“Sticky” sites find the psychological “sweet spot”

How Friends Affect Your Brain

October 12th, 2010

Your friends may matter to you in ways that you can’t even see – at the level of neural circuitry in the brain.

It turns out that the brain’s frontal midline, an area between the two hemispheres that is associated with socialization and the way you think about yourself, also shows a greater response from friends than strangers, even strangers with similar interests and lifestyles, said Fenna Krienen, graduate student at Harvard University and lead author of a new study on the subject.

“What we ended up finding is that closeness really seems to matter to these circuits in the brain much more than similarity,” she said.

Krienen’s study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, did four different functional magnetic imaging experiments on a total of 98 participants to explore these issues of brain activation and social ties.

They looked at how the brain would respond to strangers who have different interests from those of the participants, compared  with strangers with common interests, and whether that reaction would correspond to what they observed with friends.

Some participants viewed photos that they brought in of two friends and answered questions that mimicked the TV show “The Newlywed Game,” which dealt with how their friends would answer particular questions. One of these friends was someone the individual participant considered similar to himself or herself; the other the participant viewed as dissimilar. They also did this with “strangers” – researchers had invented their biographies, and paired photos with them that previous participants had brought in of their friends. Some of these biographies indicated similar interests to those of the participants, others were different.

Researchers found that it didn’t matter whether the strangers had common or dissimilar interests to their own – the strangers tended not to produce the same effect on the medial prefrontal regions and associated regions as the friends. It also didn’t matter whether participants considered the friends similar or unlike themselves; the relevant brain regions showed enhanced responses to both kinds of friends.

“In every case, it seemed like friends were processed with much greater neural activity in brain networks that make sense to us than did strangers,” Krienen said.

Read in Full:  http://pagingdrgupta.blogs.cnn.com/2010/10/12/how-friends-matter-to-your-brain/

The Life Cycle of Relationships

Marina Edelman, MA Updated: Oct 8th 2010

If you are in a relationship that seems to be headed towards commitment such as getting engaged, married, having kids, etc., it may be a good idea to familiarize yourself with the relationship lifecycle. There are five stages to all relationships. Couples move through the various stages at different speeds and will move back and forth from stage to stage and at times will find themselves in the same stage and other times in different state. Understanding the stages helps the couple normalize what they are experiencing and make better decisions.


All relationships begin with this stage. The need satisfied here is love and belonging. This stage is characterized by its dream like qualities, fantasies, and hopes for the future. The role of this stage is to give the couple a taste of the potential of their union. This stage lasts anywhere between 2 months to 2 years, but averages 6 months. When a person is in this stage, their body produces vast amounts of endorphins, which makes them feel unusually happy, positive and excited about everything in their life. There is not much to fix at this point and the couples is encouraged to continue to explore one another.


During the exploration process, differences are discovered and power struggle sets in. This is the most difficult of all stages and is usually the time when relationships terminate. As couples become emotionally and physically more intimate, weaknesses and vulnerabilities begin to surface and conflicts ensue.

The need satisfied now is power and some freedom. The role of this stage is to make each individual gain awareness of themselves and their partner and to begin to relate to each other as whole people. Power struggle starts soon after the two move in together and can last for many bitter years. During this stage a couple has three options: terminate, continue to stay together but live parallel lives, or learn how to fight fairly with both winning and to declaring one’s own individuality.

Read in Full:  http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=40322&cn=289

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