Future love drugs are not fairy tale romance potions slipped to the object of your affection: These pharmaceutical concoctions would chemically alter the brain to promote intimacy, feelings of closeness and openness, and would be designed for use in a controlled, couples’ therapy setting.
They’re already being developed and tested in the form of a nasal spray, to send the drugs directly to the brain.
Oxytocin and vasopressin — both hormones secreted by the pituitary gland that play roles in sexual reproduction, social bonding and empathy building — are being studied for the production of love drugs.
Researchers in the early 1990s found oxytocin released into the brains of female prairie voles during sexual activity helped them form a monogamous bond to their sexual partners. Vasopressin appeared to bring the same result in male voles. But when those hormones are blocked, the prairie voles don’t create that bond.
In one study, Swiss researchers showed that nasally inhaled oxytocin can reduce stress levels and promote more positive communication between arguing couples.
There is also evidence from its clinical use in the 1980s that MDMA promoted “enhanced” communication during couples’ therapy.
Australian couples’ therapist Adam Guastella sees it all the time: that “repetitive loop” of talking around the problem at the heart of their marital struggle, anything to avoid facing it head-on.
“Therapists are always waiting for an ‘a-ha’ moment, and we try lots of things to create [it],” said the clinical psychologist and principal research fellow at the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Research Institute.
Already an internationally recognized researcher for his discovery of how oxytocin, a neurologically-driven hormone, promotes emotional understanding in youth with autism, Dr. Guastella had read with interest about oxytocin’s recent branding as a “love hormone” and, likely in a few years time, a “love drug” — a future life preserver for relationships on the rocks.
And so he ran a study: Over a three-week period, 40 Australian couples took a hit of oxytocin (or a placebo) through a nasal spray before starting couples’ therapy.
The results aren’t yet published, but the data show that with the help of oxytocin, that repetitive loop breaks — couples recall memories with more emotion and detail, they appear more open to the other person’s perspective, the fractured bond begins to rebuild, Dr. Guastella said.
“If we can make it so that an ‘a-ha’ moment occurs, it’s going to save a lot of heartbreak, a lot of hostility between couples.”
It’s a seductive idea — that somewhere in the near future failing marriages and partnerships can be rescued by manipulating our brains to keep us from falling out of love.
continued at http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/0...-day-help-couples-save-failing-relationships/