Immediately after getting home yesterday, I went on a Google frenzy exploring this intriguing “Allele 334” Robyn mentioned in our discussion on love. Allele 334, when present in males, has been linked with negative effects on men’s relationships with their spouses. Most of my searches yielded numerous blogs and brief blurbs referring to what has been commonly deemed the “infidelity gene”. I’m certainly intrigued by the implications this gene has, but some of what I read made me question how strictly we can use science in something as complex and indefinable as love. The scientific basis for the allele 334 findings is related to female reports of less affectionate relationships with males who have the gene. To me, relationships are so personal it seems hard to compare them especially because love could mean something entirely different from individual to individual. My apprehension was in part due to stumbling across an article on how Dr. Phil mentions the scientific claims of the allele, but also claims he can spot infidelity by the length of a male’s index finger compared to his ring finger. Really Dr. Phil?
In my continued searches on love and the brain, I found another interesting study claiming that strong romantic feelings can ease physical pain by acting on the same neural pathways as drugs. Undergraduate students were found to report less pain while either looking at pictures of their romantic partner of at least 9 months or completing an emotionally neutral word association task, but the fMRI results revealed very different brain areas being involved in either task. Looking at pictures of one’s romantic partner was more closely linked to activating reward centers and acted similarly to the analgesic effects of opioids.
Still rolling on the idea that love is complex, I was curious about what this study really means and what implications it can have. Was this study even legitimate or could this not even be truly love, but better yet just positive episodic memories. Or is love the really new painkiller? Could this be used for terminally ill patients?
Above all, does this mean Kesha right when she sings, “Your love is my drug”?