Sábado , diciembre 10 2016
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La ciencia del Amor

El origen del sentimiento no se encuentra en el corazón, sino en la cabeza, esto gracias a una combinación de sustancias químicas

Como toda joven enamorada, Bianca Acevedo y su prometido se regalaron corazones con motivo del día de San Valentín.Pero Acevedo, una científica especializada en el sistema nervioso, sabe bien que la fuente del amor es la cabeza, no el corazón.La biología del amorAcevedo realiza investigaciones en un campo relativamente nuevo, que trata de explicar la biología del amor romántico. Y la fría explicación es que el amor es una combinación de imágenes cerebrales, hormonas y genética.

“Todo tiene una base biológica. Ya conocemos algunos de los factores más importantes”, señaló Larry Young, del centro de investigaciones Yerkes de la Universidad Emory de Atlanta. Young estudia el cerebro de un roedor monógamo para tratar de tener una mejor idea de lo que sucede en el cerebro humano.

En los humanos hay cuatro pequeñas áreas del cerebro que, según algunos investigadores, forman el circuito del amor. Acevedo, quien trabaja en el Albert Einstein College of Medicine de New York, es parte de un equipo que ha aislado esas regiones y les ha dado nombres muy poco románticos: área tegmental ventral (ATV), núcleo Acumbes, pálido ventral y núcleo dorsal del rafe.

El elemento clave es la ATV. Cuando se colocó a una persona que acaba de enamorarse en una máquina de imágenes de resonancia magnética y se les mostró fotos de su enamorado, la ATV se iluminó. Lo mismo cuando se observó a personas que siguen profundamente enamoradas luego de 20 años.

La ATV es un componente fundamental del sistema de recompensas del cerebro.

“Son células que producen dopamina (hormona y neurotransmisora) y la distribuye en distintas regiones del cerebro”, indicó Helen Fisher, investigadora y profesora de la Universidad de Rutgers. “Esta parte del sistema se activa porque uno trata de conseguir el premio mayor, un compañero”.

Adictos al amor

Una de las revelaciones de la investigación no es tan halagadora: el amor responde a reacciones químicas del cerebro y es como una adicción a una droga.

“El amor romántico puede ser adictivo; es una adicción muy bonita cuando las cosas marchan bien, y horrible cuando van mal”, expresó Fisher. “La gente mata por amor, y también muere”.

Acevedo dice que el factor adictivo “suena feísimo. Se supone que el amor es algo hermoso, que tiene una función: mantenernos juntos”.

A veces, sin embargo, el amor no une a la gente, por lo que los científicos estudiaron los cerebros de personas que acababan de romper con sus parejas y comprobaron que había actividad adicional en el núcleo Acumbes, que está asociado más fuertemente con la adicción.

“En la gente que ha sufrido desengaños hay más indicios de lo que podemos describir como un fuerte deseo”, explicó Lucy Brown, de la facultad de medicina Einstein. “Es un deseo parecido al de una adicción a las drogas”.

Los investigadores estudiaron asimismo los cerebros de personas que llevan 20 años de casadas y siguen tomándose de la mano y comportándose como si acabasen de conocerse. En los cerebros de estos hombres y mujeres se iluminaron otras dos áreas, junto con la ATV: el pálido ventral y el núcleo dorsal del rafe.

El pálido ventral se asocia con el cariño y las hormonas que disminuyen el estrés, mientras que el núcleo del rafe bombea serotonina, que “estimula una sensación de calma”, según Fisher.

Esas áreas generan “la sensación de que todo está bien”, dijo Brown.

El experimento

Los científicos estudiaron al roedor campañol, parecido al ratón de cloacas, para determinar qué es lo que hace posible el vínculo afectivo. Comprobaron que en las mujeres es facilitado por la hormona oxitocina. Cuando bloquearon los receptores de oxitocina, las hembras no desarrollaron sentimientos afectivos.

Entre los machos, la clave es la vasopresina. Cuando suministraron vasopresina a animales que jamás desarrollan lazos afectivos, los desarrollaron”.

Los investigadores también hallaron una variante genética en campañoles que no son monógamos, y encontraron la misma variante en los hombres.

Los científicos creen saber cómo mantener fluidos los circuitos amorosos.

Young dijo que, en teoría, se puede estimular el amor romántico mediante sustancias químicas, pero que “si uno quiere realmente revigorizar una relación, debe hacer las cosas que estimulan la producción de estas moléculas y dejarlas que alimenten sus emociones”. Se refería a gestos como abrazos, besos y otras formas de contacto íntimo.

“Mi esposa me dice que las flores la estimulan”, expresó. “No sé si es así. A un científico le cuesta ver cómo pueden estimular los circuitos, pero sé que parecen tener efecto. Y la ausencia de ellas también tiene un efecto”.

Por: Seth Borenstein

La ciencia del Amor

 

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