Last month, I attended Science on Tap’s for a lecture called “The Neuroscience of Pleasure and Love”. Dr. Larry Sherman, a neuroscientist at OHSU and president of the Oregon Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience, promised to reveal more information about how we love, what we love, and who we love.
Dr. Sherman was quick to point something out to all of us.
“I am not Dr. Love.”
To prepare for this lecture, he read up on essays and studies and books regarding the brain and our responses to pleasure, love and commitment. Dr. Sherman introduced his finished presentation as, “Lust, Chocolate and Prairie Voles.” Dr. Sherman asked us all to consider our ideas of pleasure. I stared at the wall in front of me, gaze directed away from the speaker and thought about my perception of sex, beauty and people and things I love to be around. Dr. Sherman organized his presentation into three phases: lust, romance and commitment or rejection.
I learned more than a handful of things that opened up my ways of thinking related to pleasure. Take aspirin when I feel heartache. Ocytocin plays a hell of a role in relationships. Our attraction to more feminine or masculine faces are associated with our estrogen and testosterone levels.
Dr. Sherman briefly touched on Hedonia and Eudaimonia. Hedonia is pleasure, enjoyment, satisfaction and the absence of distress. Eudaimonia, more complex in it's nature, is authenticity, understanding the bigger picture, striving for higher higher standards in one’s behavior, and self-actualization. Dr. Sherman pointed out a few categories in the higher level of pleasures: money, art, giving and music. There are studies that dissect how humans are wired to find things pleasurable, and one involves looking at the process of eating. Through functional MRI testing, studies show that men and women experience pleasure differently through differentiating protein receptors.
Ultimately, I learned that there is so much more to it all than I had previously imagined. Science on Tap did an incredible job of hosting and Dr. Sherman presented complex information in an unintimidating and relatable way.
You can listen to the entire lecture here:
Photo credit: Via Productions