Que Sarah, Sarah

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Loving with all your...brain

Wait, wait, wait...LUST isn't the same as LOVE?

Someone better tell most red-blooded American men.

Loving With All Your...Brain
By Elizabeth Cohen
CNN Medical Correspondent

(CNN) -- Close your eyes for a minute and envision all the romantic parts of the human body.

Her beautiful eyes. His strong shoulders. We'll stop there, but you go right ahead and think about all the body parts you want.

Bet you didn't think about the caudate and the ventral tegmental areas, did you?

These areas of the brain, while little known to most people, are helping scientists explain the physiological reasons behind why we feel what we feel when we fall in love.

By studying MRI brain scans of people newly in love, scientists are learning a lot about the science of love: Why love is so powerful, and why being rejected is so horribly painful.

In a group of experiments, Dr. Lucy Brown, a professor in the department of neurology and neuroscience at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, and her colleagues did MRI brain scans on college students who were in the throes of new love.

While being scanned, the students looked at a photo of their beloved. The scientists found that the caudate area of the brain -- which is involved in cravings -- became very active. Another area that lit up: the ventral tegmental, which produces dopamine, a powerful neurotransmitter that affects pleasure and motivation.

Dr. Brown said scientists believe that when you fall in love, the ventral tegmental floods the caudate with dopamine. The caudate then sends signals for more dopamine.

"The more dopamine you get, the more of a high you feel," Dr. Brown says.

Or as her colleague, Dr. Helen Fisher put it: When you fall in love, "exactly the same system becomes active as when you take cocaine. You can feel intense elation when you're in love. You can feel intense elation when you're high on cocaine."

Is it love -- or sex?

Scientists then wondered: Does a brain in love look much like a sexually stimulated brain? After all, we associate love and sex and sometimes confuse them.

The answer is: Brains in love and brains in lust don't look too much alike.

In studies when researchers showed erotic photos to people as they underwent brain scans, they found activity in the hypothalamus and amygdala areas of the brain. The hypothalamus controls drives like hunger and thirst and the amygdala handles arousal, among other things.

In the studies of people in love, "we didn't find activity in either," according to Dr. Fisher, an anthropologist and author of "Why We Love -- the Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love."

"We now have physiological data that suggests there are different brain systems for sex and love," says Dr. Fisher.

At some point, the two do become linked. People in love have elevated levels of dopamine. Lots of dopamine, in turn, triggers the production of testosterone, which is responsible for the sex drive in both men and women.

This helps explain why falling in love can make someone all of a sudden seem sexy.

"Three weeks ago he was just another nice guy in the office and now everything about him is sexual," says Dr. Fisher.

All this research into sex and love got the researchers thinking: Most other mammals don't have this drive for romantic love and attachment. Why do humans have it? After all, we could easily propagate the species just with our sexual urges.

Dr. Fisher thinks it has a lot to do with how difficult it once was to raise children.

"Go back millions of years to the grasslands of Africa. A woman was carrying the equivalent of a 20-pound bowling ball in one arm, and sticks and rocks in another arm to protect herself in this dangerous environment. She needed a partner to help her. She couldn't do it alone," Dr. Fisher says.

And even today, when we have strollers and the environment isn't quite as dangerous, having a mate still helps. "There are women who raise a baby by themselves, but it's a lot harder," she says.

Male brain - female brain

In their work with the lovestruck, the scientists found brain differences between men and women.

"The men had quite a bit more activity in the brain region that integrates visual stimuli. This isn't surprising considering that men support the porn industry and women spend their lives trying to look good for men," says Dr. Fisher.

But she adds there's probably a more anthropological reason at work. Simply put: A man's evolutionary mission is to spread his seed. That won't work if he mates with an 80-year-old grandmother.

"Men have to be able to size up a woman visually to see if she can bear babies," says Dr. Fisher.

The women's brain activities were a bit more puzzling.

The scientists found that women in love had more activity than men in the areas of the brain that govern memories. Dr. Fisher theorizes that this is a "female mechanism for mate choice." There are no visual clues for whether a man is fertile, but if a woman really studies a man and remembers things about his behavior, she can try to determine whether he'd make a reliable mate and father.

Thus, if it sometimes seems like a woman remembers everything -- good and bad -- about a man, "it's not just her being picky. It's an old Darwinian evolutionary strategy."

What's love got to do with it?

In the end, Drs. Fisher and Brown say what they learned from lovers' brains is that romantic love isn't really an emotion -- it's a drive that's based deep within our brains, right alongside our urges to find food and water.

"This helps explain why we do crazy things for love," says Dr. Brown. "Why did Edward VIII give up the throne for Wallis Simpson? The systems that are built into us to find food and water are the things that were also active when he renounced the throne of England."

Now their research is centered on the flip side of love. They've recruited college students who'd just been rejected by their sweethearts. Again, the scientists performed MRI's while these students looked at photos of the objects of their affection.

This time, the results were different, Dr. Brown says. The insular cortex, the part of the brain that experiences physical pain, became very active.

"People came out of the machine crying," she said. "We won't be doing that experiment again for a long time."

Elizabeth Cohen is a correspondent with CNN Medical News. Producer Amy Burkholder contributed to this report.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

An oldie...

A friend who thought this was cool told me to post this. I wrote it for a English class my Senior year at Cornell and I highly doubt anyone will appreciate it...or even get past the first stanza. But I suppose if there's an epic poem fan out there, this one's for you. It's written in the style of Spenser--phrase structure, historical nods, evocation of gods and all. An interesting side note--I chose the Spiderman theme because my heinous wench of a professor falsely accused me of cheating on the first assignment, so I wanted to pick a current (at the time) topic that I couldn't have plagiarized from years past. Also, I have no idea how to use html to format it, so all the ° words are defined in parentheses and all the numbered words have corresponding footnotes at the bottom.

The First Book of The American Captaine(1)

The Legende of Peter Parker
Of Duty


O onetime chief, proud leader of year last,
Whose name doth sparkle(2) as a crown bedight,° (° adorned)
Come to mine aide as for the Flag(3) thou hast,
When towers tumbled, torn by terror’s flight(4) ,
And loss of sinless souls proved might not right(5) .
The duty that thou never wouldst° refute, ( °would)
Is matchéd in this tale of one boy’s plight,
In city ay° yclept° by Eve’s first fruit, (°always/called)
To use his power to fight all things dissolute.° (° evil)


O she with scarlet breast (6) and fangéd maw°, (°mouth)
Ay° widowered by finishing her mate (7), (° always)
Als° Arachne (8), with fatal hubris flaw (9), (° also)
Now spider, spinning stringéd webs of fate
With tireless members° made to number eight. (° appendages)
To write this tale of Peter Parker’s fame,
O she-lobs (10), shine on me your wisdom great,
Reveal your world as Grandmother’s bright flame (11),
And with this help you’ll earn my humble tale acclaim.

Canto 1

Peter Parker the spider bites,
Leaves him with super skills:
As Spiderman he fights crime, and
The Green Goblin he kills.


A humble lad was wakening at prime,° (° sunrise)
His corse° like weed, of redwood (12) strength his brain. (° body)
As ay° the bus amounted° he on time, (°always/mounted)
And when he yode° this morn, he was quite fain,° (°went/eager)
But yet unwares° of pow’rs he’d soon gain. (° unaware)
At school a tank, full many bugs within,
He gazed in awe ‘til sudden felt a pain,
Look’d at his hand of whilome° healthy skin, (° formerly)
Now filéd° by the piercéd bite of Maya’s kin (13). (° tainted with disease)


More changed was he each moment that did pass,
No longer hatchling, meager, frail and tine°, (° tiny,small)
Goliath (14), now—a giant in his class (15).
Lachesis, measur’ing Clotho’s (16) fated twine,
Dealt Peter Parker quite the tangled (17) line;
But sturdy was this karmic thread—and true,
And Pete, of composition° now most fine°, (° proportion/of the best quality)
Like spawn of great Anansi and Adu (18),
His designated duty knew he now to do.


But first, ‘fore ridding Liberty (19) of crime,
Young Pete would need a novel (20) name and guise°, (°costume)
To serve in maskéd mystery the clime°, (° region/realm)
And keep his clan removed from watchful eyes.
The moniker he chose should not surprise—
For his powers and his look—Spiderman.
As for his weedes°, all sapphire and cerise°, (°clothes/red)
Like webbéd breeches° head to toe in span, (° tights)
Glorious and colorful—fit to suit a slan (21).


And so, ycladd° in webbed amis° and tights, (° clothed/hood)
Brave Spidey yode° to kid-naps and to fires, (°went)
To accidents and robberies and fights,
By way of distant flingéd silken wires
The which help’d Spidey fly in whirling gyres°, (° circular turn)
O’er streets, o’er roofs, o’er mountains and o’er trees.
And at each crime the sinners and the liars,
The murderers and all the city’s lees°, (° basest people)
Of him were ‘fraid° as mortals of the dieties. (° afraid)


One foe, howe’er, for Spidey, no fear bore,
A faméd leader both in wealth and trade,
His aim: to rot the Apple (22) from its core (23)
And fight the Spider with the strength of Raid (24).
He too, wore costume—his of purest jade,° (° green )
Like basest envy—his of Spidey’s fame (25),
And owned false name his person true to shade.° (° hide)
Green Goblin, after weeks of evil game,° (° trickery)
At last, to Spiderman, on floating glider (26) came.


That day burned fierce an ample° fiery blaze, (° large)
Ten men from savage flames our hero lad,° (° led)
And gain’d from city more indebted° praise, (° thankful)
‘Til man he sudden saw in green yclad.° (° clothed)
The Goblin, off on hov’ring glider yad,° (° went)
Past Liberty (27), below sea, to his lair,
And drew young Spidey with him, smiling glad,
For thought he Maya’s tricks would fail him there (28),
And then, unpestered (29), would of city, act as Mare (30).


Our Spider, casting webs from out each wreste,° (° wrist)
Trail’d Goblin, wont° to duty ay° be true: (° in the habit of/always)
To aid all danger’d° man and babe full prest° (° endangered/quickly)
And fight the basest villains all by rew.° (° in order)
His end° a cave sub-mere° he nad° been to, ( °destintation/ocean/had not)
Like sordid Hades, sudden sown with seed (31),
Den fit for fiend although all green in hue.
He trode° three trodes° through territory treed° (32) (° tread/footsteps/wooded)
‘Til Goblin sudden° ‘peared° on floating metal steed (33). (° suddenly/appeared)


The Goblin’s trayne° had been to trap this wye° ( ° deceptive plot/warrior)
In cave of snarléd shrubbery full thick.
As Spidey’s webs in forest could not fly,
It look’d as though the plot had done the trick.
But Spider’s thread to rocky roof would stick,
And so silk string he shot to canopy,
And from above wove web o’er foe most wick,° (° wicked)
Who’d gone against the essence of duty:
“With great power comes great responsibility.” (34)

© 2002 Sarah Spain

**** Note: the definitions for all words not taken from Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene were found in The Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition. That information which I gained from research, as opposed to general knowledge, is cited as such in the endnotes, along with the source of the information. Several Spenserian techniques, such as paronomasia and alliteration, are used a great many times throughout the poem, and thus are not cited each time.

1. Refers to Captain America, the leader of the Marvel Comic Avengers, of which Spiderman was a former member. (www.marvel.com)
2. Refers to the “jewel” sound in Guiliani, the Mayor of New York City during the time of the September 11th terrorist attacks.
3. “The Flag” stands for the United States of America. An example of antonomasia, as in Faerie Queene (III.Pr.5.5-6).
4. Alliteration, as in FQ (II.1.36.7).
5. “Might is Right” is a famous repeated phrase from TH White’s version of the Arthurian saga, The Once and Future King.
6. Black widow spiders are known by the bright red color of their abdomens.
7. Female black widow spiders often eat their mates during or just after copulation. Finishing, then, here is an example of paronomasia and its function is threefold: to eat; to kill literally, (to finish off); and to kill sexually (as in the classic literary practice of describing orgasm as dying or being killed).
8. Reference to the ancient Greek myth of Arachne, a mortal who was turned into a spider
9. Arachne’s transformation came as a result of her excessive self-confidence—she challenged (and defeated) the goddess Minerva in a weaving contest, and was thus cursed to a life of endless spinning as a spider.
10. Female spider, from lob, the Old English word for spider
11. Folklore of several Native American tribes includes the story of Grandmother Spider, who lit the world by bringing fire to man and teaching him to use it. (http://www.ilhawaii.net/~stony/lore120.html )
12. Peter Parker is a small, weak boy (physically built like a plant weed), but known for his great intelligence (his mind as strong as a redwood tree, the largest trees on earth). This line uses analogy.
13. The female spider Maya is the weaver of illusion in Indian myth.
14. Goliath is the giant slain by David in the Bible.
15. An example of paronomasia. The meaning of class here is twofold: academic class at school and scientific class Arachnida
16. Two of the three Fates in Greek mythology; Clotho, the spinner, spun the thread, while Lachesis, the measurer, measured it for each man, deciding its length and the destiny it held for him. (http://apk.net/~fjk/fates.html )
17. Tangled, here, meaning mixed or confusing.
18. In African mythology Adu Oginyae is the first man, while Anansi was the trickster spider and chief advisor to the Creator. (http://www.cybercomm.net/~grandpa/mytlogy2.html )
19. "Liberty” stands for the New York City, after the Statue of Liberty. An example of antonomasia, as in Faerie Queene (V.4.46.1-3).
20. An example of paronomasia. Novel, here, means new, but also puns the origin of the Spiderman tale in literature (comic books).
21. Slan is a slang word used in science fiction to describe a being of exceptional intelligence or physical prowess—a superman. Originated in the novel Slan, by A. E. Van Vogt, about Samuel Lann, (S. Lann) who, in the novel, first created and named slans. (http://www.troynovant.com/Franson/Van-Vogt/Slan.html)
22. “The Apple” stands for the New York City (The Big Apple). An example of antonomasia, as in Faerie Queene (IV.1.10.5-6).
23. In the original Spiderman comics, and the recent film, the Green Goblin’s human alter-ego, Norman Osborn, is a very wealthy and influential New York City businessman, thus, his attacks originate from the very center (core) of the city.
24. Household spray used to kill insects.
25. Repetition of “his of,” an example of anaphora, as in Faerie Queene (IV.3.41.7-9).
26. The Green Goblin moves by way of a hovercraft originally designed by his human counterpart, Norman Osborn, for use by the U.S. military.
27. Here, Liberty stands for the physical landmark itself, the Statue of Liberty. An example of synechdoche, as in Faerie Queene (VI.3.3.7-8).
28. Again, a reference to Maya, the she-spider and weaver of illusion in Indian myth.
29. An example of paronomasia. Unpestered, here, means freed from annoyance, but is also a pun on the word pest—the Green Goblin would like to remove Spiderman (an insect, pest) from the city.
30. An example of paronomasia. Mare, here, is meant in both original definitions of the word: 1) “a kind of goblin supposed to produce nightmare by sitting on the chest of the sleeper” and 2) “ the nightmare itself.” (Oxford English Dictionary) Also a pun using the sound of the word Mare, which sounds like Mayor.
31. The lair is as evil and dirty as Hades, but rather than red and rocky, is filled with plants and trees—and thus looks like Hell sown with seeds. The description that follows is an example of topothesia.
32. “Trode three trodes” example of polyptoton, as in Faerie Queene (III.1.66.6-8). The alliteration in the sentence also requires one to read it slowly and carefully, a mirror of Spiderman’s difficulty walking through the area, which is heavily covered by trees.
33. An example of catachresis—his hovercraft is clearly not a horse, but serves the same purpose of transportation.
34. Repeated phrase in both comic book and film versions of Spiderman—told to Peter Parker by his uncle (and surrogate father) just before he is murdered, the phrase is the inspiration for Spiderman’s life fighting crime.