November 1, 2010

Torah Kachur

Everyone knows that make-up sex is the best sex.  Probably because hate and love are much, much closer than anyone would want to believe.  The incredible emotions felt during a passionate embrace or at the f*^*er who cut you off may have similar roots in the brain.


Hate and love elicit the same intense emotion, desire to act and impressions of disgust....wait that last one doesn't really fit... because they share some of the same brain architecture.  In a recent study that looked at the brain 'hate circuit', researchers from University College London found that certain areas of the brain subcortex called the putamen and insula were key regions involved in hate. 


         Torah Kachur Love/Hate putamen insula brain forebrain fMRI


The research used fMRI scanning techniques to measure brain activity in volunteers that were shown pictures of people they hate.  The research did not reveal the identity of said 'hated subjects' but it won't be a surprise if one of the following were shown:  Dubya, Hitler or Joan Rivers.  However, the researchers did reveal that the particular set of neural pathways involved in hate were distinct from that of other strong emotions such as disgust, contempt  or fear. 


Previous research by the same group in 2000 also showed an involvement for the putamen and insula in the feeling of romantic love.  The putamen has been found linked to the preparation of acts of aggression, seemingly unrelated to romantic love.  Similarly, the insula has been implicated in feelings of contempt and disgust.  Maybe we should rethink the everything-glows-pink-around-him kind of love perpetuated in the media and maybe the person you love is the person you actually despise and want to run away from. 


Admittedly, the more likely scenario is that the right putamen is activated in feelings of romantic love to protect the lucky someone from others and the medial insula is activated to elicit contempt and disgust for other suitors.  In the 'hate circuit', now the aggression and disgust responses are targeted to the object of hate instead of away from the object of love.  All of these responses from the subcortex are combined with areas of the forebrain that is involved in predicting actions of others. 


A literal picture of both hate and love are emerging, the complex patterns of neurons firing on and off may eventually explain the essence of our existence.  And find out that love and hate are, in fact, one in the same.  So you do, in fact, love your inlaws.



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