September 20, 2008, 2:30 PM
Sex and Love: The Biology of Romance
Participants: Michael Baum, Helen Fisher, Siri Gullestad, Hiroaki Matsunami, Michael Numan, Donald Pfaff (moderator)
From the biological standpoint, sexual behaviors can be viewed as the most rudimentary form of social interaction. Indeed sexual drive, particularly insofar as it involves procreation, has been described as one of the most powerful forces affecting human nature. However, human sexuality goes well beyond simple reproductive biology into complex products of consciousness involving idealization and romance. In this regard, psychoanalysis places human sexuality in a much richer and more nuanced intellectual context than that of simply perpetuating the species. This roundtable will include a discussion of the effects of sex hormones on the brain and will also address how these various scientific and medical approaches to love fit in with each other and with our common-sense appreciation of love.
Michael Baum is Professor of Biology at Boston University. His research concerns the integration of hormonal and olfactory signals in the regulation of mate recognition and sexual behavior in mice and ferrets. Dr. Baum is a fellow of the American Psychological Association, a former editor of the journal, Hormones and Behavior, and past President of the Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology as well as the International Academy of Sex Research.
Helen Fisher is Research Professor and member of the Center for Human Evolutionary Studies in the Department of Anthropology at Rutgers University. She has conducted extensive research on the evolution and future of human sex, love and marriage, and gender differences in behavior and in the brain. She has written four books: Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love; The First Sex: The Natural Talents of Women and How They are Changing the World; Anatomy of Love: The Natural History of Monogamy, Adultery and Divorce; and The Sex Contract: The Evolution of Human Behavior. Currently, she is working on a book on mate choice: why you fall in love with one person rather than another.
Siri Gullestad is Professor of Clinical Psychology in the Department of Psychology at the University of Oslo, where she is now Head of the department. She is a training and supervising psychoanalyst, and past President of the Norwegian Psychoanalytic Society. Within the field of psychoanalysis and dynamic psychotherapy, she has focused on conceptual analysis and development of theory, and worked with empirical and theoretical problems connected to the evaluation of therapeutic outcomes. She also has contributed to the psychoanalytic interpretation of literature. Her latest book, co-authored with Bjorn Killingmo, is The Subtext: Psychoanalytic Therapy in Practice.
Hiroaki Matsunami is Assistant Professor of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology and Neurobiology at Duke University Medical Center. He is a neurobiologist who uses molecular biology to study the mechanisms underlying olfaction and taste. His research concerns the link between individual variation in genes and olfactory perception. He is an academic editor of the journal PLoS ONE.
Michael Numan is Professor of Psychology at Boston College. His general research area is the study of the neurobiology of motivation, emotion, and social behavior, and his specific research deals with the identification of neural circuits which regulate parental behavior in rodents. He has written the chapter on parental behavior for The Encyclopedia of Neuroscience, The Encyclopedia of Reproduction, and The Physiology of Reproduction. He recently completed a book with Tom Insel on the neurobiology of parental behavior.
Donald Pfaff is Professor and Head of the Laboratory of Neurobiology and Behavior at The Rockefeller University. He is a brain scientist who uses neuroanatomical, neurochemical and neurophysiological methods to study the cellular mechanisms by which the brain controls behavior. Dr. Pfaff is a Fellow of the New York Academy of Sciences, a member of the Advisory Board of the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and serves on the editorial boards of numerous scholarly journals.
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