Posts Tagged ‘Society for Neuroscience’

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Please forgive the absurd title here … its just a play on words from a flabby, middle-aged science geek who is as alluring to “the ladies” as an old leather boot.

Like a lot of males (with active fantasy lives I suppose), my interest was piqued by the recent headline, “What Do Women Really Want? Oxytocin” – based on a recent lecture at this years Society for Neuroscience annual conference.

Oxytocin is a small hormone that also modulates brain activity.  Many have referred it as the “Love Hormone” because it is released into the female brain during breastfeeding (where moms report feeling inextricably drawn to their infants), orgasm and other trust-building and social bonding experiences.  So, the premise of the title (from the male point of view), is a fairly simplistic – but futile – effort to circumvent the whole “social interaction thing” and reduce dating down to handy ways of raising oxytocin levels in females (voila! happier females more prone to social (ahem) bonding).

Of course, Mother Nature is not stupid.  Unless you are an infant, there is no “increase in oxytocin” without a prior “social bonding or shared social experience”.  Mother Nature has the upper hand here … no physical bonding without social binding first!

So, what the heck does this have to do with yoga?  Yes, its true that yoga studios are packed with friendly, health conscious females, but, the practice is mainly a solitary endeavor.  Aside from the chatter before and after class, and the small amount of oxytocin that is released during exercise, there is no social bonding going on that would release the so-called “love hormone”.  Thus, even though “women want yoga”, yoga class may not be the ideal location to “score with chicks”.

However, there may be one aspect of yoga practice that can facilitate social bonding (and hence oxytocin release).  One benefit of a yoga practice (as covered here, here) is an increased ability to “be present” – an improved ability to pay closer attention to your own thoughts and feelings, and also, the thoughts and feelings of another person.

The scientific literature is fairly rich in research showing a close relationship between attention, shared- or joint-attention, trust and oxytocin, and the idea is pretty obvious.  If you are really paying attention to the other person, and paying attention to your shared experience in the moment, the social bond will be stronger, more enjoyable and longer-lasting.  Right?

Soooo – if you want the oxytocin to flow – look your partner in the eye, listen to their thoughts, listen to your own reactions, listen to, and feel their breath as it intermingles with your own, feel their feelings and your own, slow-down and enjoy the minute details of the whole experience and be “right there, right now” with them.  Even if you’ve been with the same person for 40 years, each moment will be new and interesting.

Yoga will teach you how to do this.

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SfNneuroblogbadgeIn 13th century India,  the story was originally told of a group of blind men (or men in the dark) who touch an elephant to learn what it is like.  Each one touches a different part, but only one part, such as the side or the tusk.  They then compare notes on what they felt, and learn they are in complete disagreement.

With this ancient story in mind,  I’d like to introduce you to the annual conference of the Society for Neuroscience, or SfN, where brain enthusiasts across the globe gather for 5 days to compare notes – not on an elephant – but on something more massive – the brain and mind.  The vast complexities of neural development and communication will be shared amongst some 31,000+ participants in an effort to integrate findings from molecular to neural physiology to systems dynamics to behavior and find some  agreement on one of the all-time great biological mysteries.

As but a single humble molecular/cognitive/neuro/blogger, I will do my best to focus specifically on stories and highlights that address the dilemma of the bind men and the elephant and look for stories that  interlink different levels of analysis and help integrate data and models across different levels of analysis. I am fascinated by the way in which data from molecular levels of analysis can be interlinked with synaptic and systems levels of analysis and so hope to relate some of these interconnections with my readers.

You can readily follow the action at this years gathering using the fantastic organizational, informatic tools on the SfN meeting planner.  There are a number of resources to support neuro-bloggers and theme-specific neuro-tweeters.  Also, DrugMonkey has a growing list of other SfN tweeters/bloggers.  The real-time flow on Twitter #sfn09 as well as #sfnthemea & (b,c,d,e, and the notorious h) is already amazing !!

Please join the fray and share your thoughts with the SfN community! See you in Chicago.

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