Captain of our fairy band,
Helena is here at hand,
And the youth, mistook by me,
Pleading for a lover's fee.
Shall we their fond pageant see?
Lord, what fools these mortals be!
- William Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream
When a female prairie vole’s brain is artificially infused with oxytocin, a hormone that produces some of the same neural rewards as nicotine and cocaine, she’ll quickly become attached to the nearest male. A related hormone, vasopressin, creates urges for bonding and nesting when it is injected in male voles (or naturally activated by sex).Oxytocin, produced during childbirth and nursing, is the same chemical that stimulates bonding between mother and child. So motherly love is, neurochemically, the prototype of adult love. I am sure Dr. Freud, wherever he is, has just lit up a celebratory cigar and the attachment theorists are throwing a champagne party!
Researchers are now playing around with manipulating oxytocin levels in humans and discussing its use in everything from encouraging more typical social relations in people with autism to marriage counseling. But researchers are noticing, as Shakespeare did, that problems might arise if the wrong partner is targeted. They are also playing around with the idea of a vaccine that inhibits mating and nesting impulses. So the first drug could make you fall in love with an ass and the second might keep you from acting like one yourself. And Shakespeare thought of that one too.