Friday, February 13, 2009

Loving Science

Our Special Valentine's Day News Round-Up

Love Drugs
Have you ever wished you could give someone a love potion so they would fall for you? Or yearn to swallow a love antidote after a particularly bad breakup? According to neuroscience research by Dr. Larry Young, which was recently released in Nature, these scenarios may one day be possible! A follow-up article in the NYTimes discusses potential situations that could arise if such concoctions were developed.
- Emily Norton

Hug Your Heart Healthy
Grey's Anatomy fans will remember a recent incident involving Dr. Dixon (a relatively new character who suffers from Asperger's syndrome) needing to be hugged to calm down. It turns out that there is science behind that awkward scene. In fact, some studies show that being hugged daily can improve health, especially in women. The benefits come from hormones - like oxytocin- that have a calming effect when released in the brain.
- Heather Benson

Chocolate Lovers, Your Attention Please
I'm not a huge fan of the commercialization of Valentine's Day, but if it's an excuse for someone to send some chocolate my way...

How did chocolate become associated with Valentine's Day? One article suggests that chocolate was given as a gift by the Aztecs and was considered an aphrodisiac. Here's another article that gets into the science of the compounds in chocolate and what their effects are as we consume the treat. Once chocolate made it to the Old World it immediately became a favorite of the nobility- nobody else could afford it! Valentine's Day was the day to shower your lover with gifts, and chocolate - the expensive luxury that it was - quickly became a favorite.

In 2007 the AAAS Annual Meeting presented research on the impact of chocolate (really, the flavonols in it) on learning and memory. The study, funded in part by Mars, Inc (I know, I know, but who else cares that much?) showed that chocolate consumption caused increased brain activity in regions associated with alertness. I know I get really alert when my favorite gold box of truffles appears!
-Hillary Lewis

For more science related Valentine's trivia, check out:
Happy Valentine's Day from all of us here at New Voices. In honor of Darwin's birthday this week, we picked out this card just for you!

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