LUST Sexual Love and Nurturant CARE Systems of the Brain

As described more fully in Chapter 4, the subcortical controls for hormonal control of female and male sexuality were identified decades ago, and they are concentrated in basal forebrain, septal, and anterior hypothalamic/preoptic areas of the brain, coursing medially down to the PAG (Pfaff, 1999). The gender specific LUST systems have distinct components as well as many overlapping ones. For instance, female sexuality has been linked more clearly to the dynamics of oxytocinergic brain systems, while male sexuality is more dependent on vasopressinergic components that uniquely energize male sexual eagerness. The orgasmic components for all genders have strong opioid and oxytocinergic aspects.

Considering the importance of peripherally secreted hormones such as oxytocin, endorphins, and prolactin in parturition and lactation, a satisfying discovery has been that in subcortical neuropeptide circuits these same chemistries promote maternal urges to exhibit care and nurturance. Thus, it would seem that both mother and child derive psychological pleasure and physical homeostasis from the release of such molecules during nursing and other prosocial activities. All of these systems figure heavily in the elaboration of social bonds and a working hypothesis is that they help generate positive feelings of social warmth and the various forms of love, from passionate to nurturant. It is most intriguing that the neurochemistries that regulate sexuality, maternal behavior, and separation distress overlap enormously. The evolutionary suggestion is that maternal feelings emerged from more ancient brain systems that once only mediated sexual ones, which adds a new dimension to the concept of infantile sexuality.

Getting to Know Anxiety

Getting to Know Anxiety

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