In the new issue of Nature, the neuroscientist Larry Young offers a grand unified theory of love. After analyzing the brain chemistry of mammalian pair bonding – and, not incidentally, explaining humans’ peculiar erotic fascination with breasts – Young predicts that it won’t be long before an unscrupulous suitor could sneak a pharmaceutical love potion into your drink.
That’s the bad news. The not-so-bad news is that you may enjoy this potion if you took it knowingly with the right person. But the really good news, as I see it, is that we might reverse-engineer an anti-love potion, a vaccine preventing you from making an infatuated ass of yourself. Although this love vaccine isn’t mentioned in Young’s essay, when I raised the prospect he agreed it could also be in the offing.
Could any discovery be more welcome? This is what humans have sought ever since Odysseus ordered his crew to tie him to the mast while sailing past the Sirens. Long before scientists identified neuroreceptors, long before Britney Spears’s quickie Vegas wedding or any of Larry King’s seven marriages, it was clear that love was a dangerous disease.