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Serotonin: A critical chemical for human intimacy and romance
Date:4/14/2011

Philadelphia, PA, 14 April 2011 - The judgments we make about the intimacy of other couples' relationships appear to be influenced by the brain chemical serotonin, reports a new study published in Biological Psychiatry.

Healthy adult volunteers, whose levels of serotonin activity had been lowered, rated couples in photos as being less intimate and less romantic than volunteers with normal serotonin activity.

The approach involved giving amino acid drinks to two groups of volunteers in order to manipulate blood concentrations of the amino acid tryptophan, which is a vital ingredient in the synthesis of serotonin. One group received drinks that contained tryptophan. The other group received drinks that did not contain tryptophan. They were then asked to make judgments about sets of photographs of couples. Differences in the judgments made by the two groups reflected changes in their serotonin activity.

"Serotonin is important in social behavior, and also plays a significant role in psychological disorders such as depression," explained Professor Robert Rogers of Oxford University, who led the research. "We wanted to see whether serotonin activity influences the judgments we make about peoples' close personal relationships."

The volunteers who received the drink without tryptophan consistently rated the couples in the photos as being less 'intimate' and 'romantic' than the participants who received the control drink.

This finding is an important reminder that our relationships with other people are influenced by processes beyond our awareness and control. But we should not be surprised by this revelation. Serotonin function drops in association with episodes of depression, where the capacity for intimacy also is often compromised.

Understanding the powerful influence of these chemicals is important as supportive close relationships are known to protect against the development of mental illnesses and to promote recovery in tho
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Contact: Chris J. Pfister
C.Pfister@elsevier.com
215-239-3266
Elsevier
Source:Eurekalert

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