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September 27, 2008, 2:30 PM

Love Code: The Chemistry of Intimacy

Participants: Stephanie Brown, Sue Carter (moderator), Elaine Hatfield, Dolores Malaspina, Stephen Porges

Love is life's most precious and intimate mystery—a force that appears to defy reason or logic. A science of love leads to two complimentary paths of inquiry: First, how do loving relations form? And second, through what mechanisms do relationships influence health and happiness? When two people fall in love, they are responding to biological signals that are observable, measurable, and built upon the evolution of the human nervous system. The sequence of events that lead to loving relationships is critical, similar to entering a combination in a bank vault without triggering an alarm—a kind of love code. Using the tools of science and novel perspectives on the evolution of the human nervous system, this roundtable will examine processes necessary for falling in love, and help us understand why and how loving relationships protect against the stress of life. Panelists from the fields of psychiatry, social and evolutionary psychology, neuroendocrinology, and neuroscience will examine the biology and psychology of the behavioral processes necessary for intimacy and love in mental health and in illness, and offer insights into the role of protective social support.

Stephanie Brown is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan. Dr. Brown was a recipient of a recent career development award (K-01) from the National Institute of Mental Health, and a junior incentive award from the National Science Foundation. Dr. Brown's research program examines social influences on health and well-being, and she currently studies neuro-affective mechanisms that underlie helping behavior.

Sue Carter is Professor of Psychiatry and Co-Director of the Brain-Body Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has studied the endocrinology of love and other aspects of reproduction for more than three decades. She is the author of more than 200 scientific papers, and editor of five volumes, including Attachment and Bonding: A New Synthesis. Dr. Carter was the first person to detect and define the physiology of monogamy. She is currently exploring the role of novel brain chemicals, including oxytocin, in stress management and early experience.

Elaine Hatfield is a professor of Psychology at the University of Hawaii and past-president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality. In recent years she has received Distinguished Scientist Awards (for a lifetime of scientific achievement) from the Society of Experimental Social Psychology, the Society for the Scientific Study of Sex, and the University of Hawaii. Two of her books have won the American Psychological Association's National Media Award. Recently, Drs. Hatfield and Richard Rapson (who are husband and wife) have collaborated on three books: Love, Sex, and Intimacy: Their Psychology, Biology, and History, Emotional Contagion, and Love and Sex: Cross-Cultural Perspectives.

Dolores Malaspina is Anita and Joseph Steckler Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at New York University. She is also the Director of Psychiatry at Bellevue Hospital Center. Previously, she was a research psychiatrist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Columbia University. She has published 150 papers and, notably, was the first person to identify paternal germ line changes as an important factor for increasing schizophrenia risk. Dr Malaspina is the principal investigator on two NIMH research grants and on a Midcareer Investigator Award in Patient-Oriented Research. She has received numerous awards from the American Psychiatric Association, the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, NIH and other organizations for her scientific accomplishments and for mentoring the careers of young scientists.

Stephen Porges is Professor of Psychiatry and Co-Director of the Brain-Body Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is the creator of the Polyvagal Theory and the discoverer of the Social Engagement System—a neural system that links the face with the heart. Dr. Porges was awarded a patent for a methodology to describe neural regulation of the heart that is currently in use in more than 150 laboratories worldwide. He is former Chair of the Department of Human Development and Director of the Institute for Child Study at the University of Maryland, past President of the Federation of Behavioral, Psychological and Social Sciences, and former President of the Society for Psychophysiological Research. Dr. Porges has published over 200 articles, and has edited three volumes.


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