I had never heard of interpersonal neurobiology before reading this article: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/24/the-brain-on-love/ and, although this one is, at times, unbearably sappy, the principles behind it are truly fascinating. The main point, at least that I took from it, is that our personal relationships and interactions – especially the most intimate ones – can have epigenetic effects on our brain, our neuronal organization, the proteins we produce or the neurotransmitters we package, just to name a few. The article further asserts, however that have a relationship is a learning process. If the relationship is functional (and, yes, I know, that is a big if) the egocentric tendencies of the brain change in a way that allows us to at least attempt to adopt the perspective of our significant other. As the article says, “I” becomes “we”. If our attention and the things with which we most concern ourselves have the most profound effect on our brains, then it should come as little surprise that relationships, one of the most widespread elements of the human existence, play a very very large role in that process. Who knew that a supportive relationship can even mediate our response to stressors and alter our physiology?! That is, again, assuming the relationship is supportive.
So if a good relationship can have incredibly, positive effects, it’s pretty easy to guess what the effects of a dysfunctional relationship are going to be: crappy. The article doesn’t address this side of love (or lack thereof), but I would assume that bad relationships, which usually cause a LOT of stress can actually alter your brain for the worse. Not only is stress an issue, but I wonder if a lack of learning from the other person’s perspective, a lack of trust, and a reorganization of the pathways towards more egocentric or melancholic tendencies could also result. Kinda makes you think twice before allowing yourself to be treated poorly, or maybe even reconsider before you do someone wrong.