Entries in fMRI (9)


Kids vs. Scantily Clad Women: Which Do New Dads Prefer and Why?

We’ve written previously that fatherhood is associated with decreased levels of testosterone in dads (except for when a testosterone boost might come in handy). For the most part, the general belief has been that the dads’ lower testosterone limits their impulses to mate (presumably not with their baby-momma), thus keeping them invested in their children.

Some recent research from Emory University, however, suggests another, or additional, possibility.1 Specifically, the researchers compared the testosterone and oxytocin hormone levels of a group of fathers of 1-2 year old children with hormone  levels of men without children. In addition to collecting blood samples to measure the hormones, the researchers also scanned the brains (via MRI scans) of all the men while they were looking at 3 types of pictures: 1) children’s faces (of the same sex and age as their own kids, and depicting a range of emotional expressions), 2) unknown adult faces displaying similar emotions, and 3) scantily clad women. The research team was interested in whether fathers vs. non-fathers responded neurologically (i.e., as assessed via increased brain activation) to the different types of images and, if so, what role hormones play in those neural responses.

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Friendship in the Brain



Clinical psychologist and guest contributor, Dr. David Sbarra, recently wrote a great piece on how "Our Brains are Built for Friendship". Follow this link for the full story over on YouBeauty.com.




image source: sarahrosecav.wordpress.com


You are the Perfect Drug 

I recently read your article Oxytocin: The Hormone that Binds. This bonding molecule and its withdrawal effects can be so severe. Have there been any studies on how Oxytocin or withdrawal from it affects the levels of other similar hormones such as serotonin, epinephrine, etc? It seems like the detoxing process is just as bad if not worse than hardcore drugs such as Vicodin, cocaine, heroin, or morphine, at least from an emotional/ psychological perspective.

It's been almost 2 years since I came out of this very bad, painful "relationship" with a girl. I say "relationship" because it was strictly a sexual and logically I knew it was never going to lead to anything serious but my emotions said otherwise. After such a long time I feel like I am still in detox mode.

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Breasts are Best: Can Women Orgasm from Nipple Stimulation?

Some women, though not many, have reported that they can achieve an orgasm simply by having their breasts and nipples stimulated. The idea of a woman experiencing orgasm without any genital touching whatsoever might seem perplexing, but new research suggests that there is actually a sound biological basis for it.

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Slowly Stroke Me (or You): The Power of a Soft Touch

To determine how the brain processes physical touch, researchers used a soft bristled brush to caress participants’ arms at either a quick or a slow pace. MRI scans of participants’ brains revealed activity in the insula, a region of the brain associated with emotional responses, during the slow, sensual strokes. Brain activity was similar when participants watched someone else receive slow strokes, but not when touch was directed toward inanimate objects.  

Morrison, I., Björnsdotter, M., & Olausson, H. (2011). Vicarious responses to social touch in posterior insular cortex are tuned to pleasant caressing speeds. The Journal of Neuroscience, 31(26), 9554-9562.


Patrick Swayze was Right: Pain Don't Hurt

Researchers recently made 17 women hot…by applying intense heat to their forearms. Women felt less pain when looking at pictures of romantic partners versus when looking at strangers or other objects. Brain scans taken during the heat exposure indicated that parts of the brain associated with safety were more active in the partner condition, whereas areas associated with pain were less active, especially when women were in longer relationships or with particularly supportive partners.

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Feeling Your Pain, Quite Literally

Some research is just too cool; here’s a now classic study worth sharing.

For a long time scientists have been curious about the link between empathy and pain. In particular, people use so-called “mirror neurons” to help interpret what others are experiencing, to help remember their own experiences, and to help predict or imagine the past or future.

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Crying Women Are a Real Turn Off

Perhaps when Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses wrote “Don’t Cry,” he was really protecting his libido. First, researchers collected tears of women who watched sad movies. Later, males who smelled the tears had decreased testosterone and found pictures of females less appealing. fMRI scans of males’ brain activity after smelling tears revealed that males' brains had less activity in regions associated with sexual arousal, which suggests that odorless tears contain a chemical signal that men unconsciously detect. 

Gelstein, S., Yeshurun, Y., Rozenkrantz, L., Shushan, S., Frumin, I., Roth, Y., & Sobel, N. (2011). Humans tears contain a chemosignal. Science, 331 (6014), 226-230. doi: 10.1126/science.1198331


Getting Dumped Hurts Like Hell 

A new study highlights the similarities between physical pain and social rejection. When recently dumped individuals were asked to view a picture of their ex, an fMRI scan revealed that their brain was active in the same areas that process physical pain. 

Kross, E., Berman, M. G., Mischel, W., & Smith, E. E. (2011). Social rejection shares somatosensory representations with physical pain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.