Connecting to our Social Selves

Dear Skin,

I would like to express my upmost gratitude for the vast amount of receptors you possess.  Among my favorites – the practical ones that allow me to find keys at the bottom of my large jet-black bag, the emergency ones that warn me the fajita plate is searing, and those truly special ones that enable me to feel my lover’s caress and help me achieve orgasm…

Such would begin a letter of appreciation to a physical sense of great importance, exquisitely described in the book Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart, and Mind

(Un) Attractive: The impact of birth control on partner desirability

Spring bursts forth with vibrant color, intoxicatingly sweet floral scents and sex.  That’s right, relations.  While monogamy in the rest of the animal kingdom is more of a myth, human pair-bonding gives the reward system a long-term buzz of activity and contributes to both physical and mental health. Oxytocin, the hormone produced when engaging in hugging, kissing and intercourse reduces jealousy and increases partner attractiveness. How unfortunate would it be if a product existed that could disturb this natural rhythm: altering the level of attraction and diminishing sexual functioning. There is - and almost 10 million women in the US are using it: hormonal contraception.

Pathways of Thankfulness: Gratitude in the Brain

Crisp November gently beckons fire-side chats, warm knitted scarfs and fragrant kitchens redolent of home scents.  This month, a thankful attitude lifts spirits and encourages kind actions.  Despite its psychological benefit, gratitude is elusive, not inherent and difficult to define. Some psychologists contend that gratitude is the appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to oneself.  What defines meaning in our brain and how does gratitude carve out its neural pathways?

Choose Personality, Press Play: Cognitive Style Predicted by Musical Preference

At first blush, layers of a personality peel back slowly.  Upon meeting someone new, a rudimentary judgment blooms based on apparent age, posture, gender, style of dress and even language spoken: Liberal. Likely shops at Whole Foods. Listens to NPR.  Intelligent and neat. Clearly owns a cat. Maybe two.  Is that a sperm whale tattoo? We are definitely going to be friends.  While our brain is adapted to make snappy assumptions, research points to a much faster (and more accurate) way of unlocking key personality elements: listening to their playlist. 

Ebb and Flow of Norepinephrine Colors Emotion

Press play on your earliest happy memory.  Your presence is transported to the past, where you feel temperature change, see younger versions of family members interact and even smell the succulent aromas around you.  A vivid experience drenches the senses and embosses an indelible memory on the brain's surface. Why do some remember (and even dream) in exquisite sensory detail, while others watch only monochromatic versions of their past? The answer lies in their genes.