prairie vole

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When prairie voles find a mate, they stay together for life. Not only that, but an experiment showed that they console one another. During the experiment, a group of prairie voles were shocked with electricity while their mates watched. When they were reunited, the prairie vole that watched their mate be shocked would lick them. It was noted that it wasn’t an act of grooming but offering support.

Falling in Love!!

Hello, brain people!

Love!! What on earth happens to your brain as you fall in love? There are three stages that we all go through as we fall in love with that special somebody: Lust, Attraction, Attachment

During Lust, sex hormones are released - this being oestrogen and testosterone in women and men respectively.

Throughout Attraction, you feel all wonderful and love-stricken! You can’t think of anything other than that special somebody. There are three main neurotransmitters that are involved in this stage, with each type acting within a specific pathway in the brain. These neurotransmitters are: Adrenaline (Epinephrine), Dopamine, and Serotonin.

Epinephrine is released during your body’s “stress response”, making your blood levels of adrenaline and cortisol increase. This means that even meeting with that somebody can make your heart race, as you also start to sweat. How lovely!

Dopamine is closely related to our brain’s “appetite system”, the system that is active whilst we are craving something. Dopamine stimulates “desire and reward”, and does this by triggering a rush of pleasure! This has a very similar affect to cocaine on the brain! Love is a drug!

Serotonin is an anti-depressant, and may also explain why, when falling in love, your love stays on your mind.

Finally, we have attachment! This is the tight bond that keeps couples together long enough for them to raise children. Yet again, we have chemicals to thank for this! These are: oxytocin and vasopressin.

Oxytocin, the cuddle hormone :), is a very powerful hormone released by men and women during orgasm, and is said to deepen the feelings of attachment between the couple, making them feel much closer to each other. As the theory goes, the more sex that the couple has, the deeper the connection they feel for one another. Sounds good to me! :) 

Vasopressin is an anti-diuretic hormone that works with your kidneys to control thirst. Although little is known about the affects of this hormone, when male prairie voles were given a drug that suppresses the effect of vasopressin, the bond with their partner fell apart immediately, as he then would fail to protect his partner.

So go out there! Bump into a complete stranger, tell them about yourself, and fall in love! :)

Happy Valentine’s Day from the Scientific Pokédex!

If love is in the air today, Luvdisc won’t be far away. This heart-shaped fish pokémon seeks out and swims after couples in love. But how does it find them?

Many fish, surprisingly enough, have a keen sense of smell. Salmon quite literally sniff their way back to the river they were born in during mating season. Other fish will sniff out immune system genes before picking potential mates. And sharks, of course, can detect one drop of blood in one million drops of water, and smell it over a quarter mile away. 

It comes from having two nostrils: The fish will compare the smell (or concentration) of whatever its smelling, and will turn in the direction that has a larger concentration of the odorant. We have two nostrils that do the same, but perhaps it’s easier to think of it like your ears. By picking which ear has the louder sound, humans are able to locate the source of the sound. Sharks, salmon, and luvdisc do the same for smell.

But this, of course, leads to the question of what is it, exactly, that luvdisc is smelling? As it turns out, that happiness, cuddliness, lustfulness and all of those feelings associated with love can be tracked through chemicals called hormones. For example:

  • Lust and sex drive is driven primarily by testosterone and estrogen.
  • Dopamine, serotonin and adrenaline are behind the happy, energetic initial attraction in love. Dopamine can also be triggered by many addictive drugs, and is responsible for feelings of pleasure. Serotonin is associated with happiness, and is thought to be responsible for why that person keeps showing up in your thoughts. Adrenaline causes your heart to race, your palms to sweat, and gives you a rush of energy.
  • Finally, long-term attachment and bonds are formed through chemicals such as oxytocin and vasopressin. Oxytocin is a powerful chemical that strengthens romantic bonds as well as parental bonds. Female rats injected with oxytocin, for example, would start protecting and cuddling other females’ baby rats. Vasopressin is also important in long-term bonds. When the male in a prairie vole couple was given a drug to suppress vasopressin, he almost immediately lost all devotion to his partner and failed to defend her from new suitors.

So Luvdisc can detect at least one of these hormones, and when it smells it in the water it will swim after it. Perhaps luvdisc can absorb these hormones, which give it the same feelings of happiness that the source experiences. It would be in small concentrations, but would possibly give luvdisc the same chemical “high” as an addictive drug which also trigger these hormones. In any case, luvdisc is a strange pokémon to say the least, but one appropriate to analyze on Valentine’s Day.

Luvdisc can smell “love” hormones such as dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin in the water, and will follow these smells to their source.