Everything is chemistry. Everything contains chemistry. Is everything just chemistry? Some say it is.

It seems that the complexity of life processes could be explained by the grace of a few molecules’ superpowers: SEROTONIN, DOPAMINE, ENDORPHINS, ADRENALINE…

OXYTOCIN is popular now, the “love molecule” of stable relationships, fidelity, monogamy, serenity, embrace.

OXYTOCIN is a nanopeptide, ie, a peptide, a molecule formed by the union of 9 (nona) amino-acids, those too formed by the union of…(…) those too formed by the union of atoms… those too formed by the union of particles… Everything is made of particles.

This particular stream of particles of the atoms of the 9 amino acids, OXYTOCIN, is the one that can turn (by injecting it into specific brain areas) a promiscuous mountain vole, only occupied in fertilizing voles and not caring about offspring nor love relationships once its duty has been fulfilled, into a caring lover and responsible parent, monogamous, just like the OXYTOCIN ordered.

The mountain vole has a relative, the  prairie vole, that is a pleasure to see. Monogamous, cuddly, tender, paternal, friendly, quiet … The only difference with the promiscuous cousin of the mountains is in the density of OXYTOCIN receptors in his brain. The one of the mountains isn’t a bad guy. OXYTOCIN fails him. He’s sick. They give him OXYTOCIN and he improves. He returns to the fold.

OXYTOCIN establishes the social glue of the groups. Every hug and every romantic encounter reinforces the bonds within a group… and walls within a group.

OXYTOCIN is friends with another supermolecule, the DOPAMINE, responsible for memorizing behaviors judged as appropriate or obnoxious. OXYTOCIN promotes the memorization of everything that is desirable for the group cohesion and its sidekick, DOPAMINE, is responsible for moving (motivating) the individual in a properly labeled behaviour, every time the relevant context shows up.

Actually all the supermolecules do is transmit orders to cells: “do it!”. They don’t even know the content of what they are ordering, let alone why or what for. They are simple fingers that activate buttons in the corresponding cell receptors. Once the powerful OXYTOCIN finger has pressed the button of its receptor’s complex molecule (a protein, also a “simple” sequence of amino acids, but much longer than the nine of the nanopeptide) a complex chain of intracellular reactions is set in motion, making the individual want to hug his lover.

The chemistry that strengthens the bonds within a group (couple, family, pack) strengthens the avoidance and fear behaviors of the extra-groupal. OXYTOCIN promotes hugging the partner, but also encourages to defend the relationship of other potential suitors. “You are only mine…”

Supermolecules are capricious, contradictory. They can do one thing one day and the opposite the next day. It depends. They depend on when, why and for what they are said to do the run-go-and-tell the cells to do what they know.

The “Open Sesame!” doesn’t have the power to open any door without a voice reader (receptor of “open sesame!”) that initiates the process of opening the door. Oxytocin is one of the many messages circulating in the organisms, communicating decisions of complicated circuits of memory-prediction.

The changing with the times promotes the hope of providing supermolecules to solve any inconvenience. Maybe we can’t get the provision of supermolecules on demand, but that doesn’t solve the big issues:

When, how much, where, why, what for … What will they think of me?

The neural network is evolving to solve the difficult problem of decision making, facing oneself and others. The brain may have serious supermolecule supply problems, maybe we go around with a low level of endorphins and oxytocins and it all gets solved with the decision of replacing them with injections, nasal sprays or genetic engineering, on demand. Maybe. In schizophrenia and autism oxytocin is low and maybe just a little external help is enough… Maybe…


A molecule for love. A molecule for lobbies.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized by arturo goicoechea. Bookmark the permalink.

About arturo goicoechea

Born in Mondragón, Guipúzcoa, in 1946. Head of the Neurology Department at the Santiago Hospital in Vitoria (Álava), Spain. Published books: Jaqueca, 2004. Depresión y dolor, 2006. Cerebro y dolor (Esquemas en dolor neuropático) 2008. Migraña, una pesadilla cerebral, 2009.

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