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Re: [evol-psych] News: Neuroscience of Human Attachment

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  • james kohl
    First line of their introduction: In mammals, including humans, attachment is a major dimension of behavior that can come into play in several domains (Fisher
    Message 1 of 2 , Jan 31, 2013
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      First line of their introduction: "In mammals, including humans, attachment is a major dimension of behavior that can come into play in several domains (Fisher et al., 2006)."

      Later: "As mentioned above, the neuroscientific investigation of attachment in humans has just recently begun." -- Vrtička, P., & Vuilleumier, P. (2012)

      Their citation is to: Fisher, H. E., Aron, A., and Brown, L. L. (2006). Romantic love: a mammalian brain system for mate choice. Philos. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B Biol. Sci. 361, 2173–2186.

      "This is science at its best, with adventure, ideas, and lots of facts... You will never look at your lover or your family the same way again." -- Fisher H.E. (1995),  from the cover of "The Scent of Eros: Mysteries of Odor in Human Sexuality" by JV Kohl and RT Francoeur.

      Their conclusion: "Future investigations need to deepen our knowledge of the neural mechanisms involved in different facets of attachment, its development (brain activation patterns related to attachment in childhood and adolescence and their transition into adulthood) and its malleability by new experiences and learning, including at the level of gene-environment interactions. We believe that this endeavor will be made possible by using an interdisciplinary approach based on neuroimaging, genetic, and psychological investigations in humans, as well as innovative studies on animal models of social behaviors, as effectively illustrated by many recent advances in social neuroscience."

      My comment: Adaptive evolution is nutrient-dependent and pheromone-controlled in species from microbes to man. Which animal model of social behavior is best suited for application that supports advances in social neuroscience? Am I biased by my own model in this context, or are others (Helen Fisher and a few others excepted) simply biased against it? Is there another animal model that deserves more consideration? What about birds (like in the picture that accompanies the article text below)?

      James V. Kohl
      Medical laboratory scientist (ASCP)
      Independent researcher
      Kohl, J.V. (2012) Human pheromones and food odors: epigenetic influences on the socioaffective nature of evolved behaviors. Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology, 2: 17338.

      From: Robert Karl Stonjek <stonjek@...>
      To: Psychiatry-Research <psychiatry-research@yahoogroups.com>; Evolutionary-Psychology <evolutionary-psychology@yahoogroups.com>; Evolutionary Psychology News <evol_psch_news@yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Thu, January 31, 2013 6:36:54 PM
      Subject: [evol-psych] News: Neuroscience of Human Attachment


      Neuroscience of Human Attachment

      Attachment is the ability to form human relationship bonds.  Individuals vary in their ability to develop social relationships.  The ability to form secure human relationships plays a key role in successful personal and occupational development.

      Attachment theory evolved over 50 years ago.  This theory proposes all humans have an innate biological mechanism that supports social engagement.  This engagement is necessary during infancy to encourage nurturance and provision of a safe environment.

      Bowlby is credited with describing attachment theory and he proposed three developmental styles of attachment.  These three attachment styles included:

      • Secure attachment: an ability to easily seek and obtain support from others.  This style promotes strong bonds with parents, siblings, friends and later in life allows for bonding with a mate.
      • Anxious attachment: a insecure attachment style where emotional support has often been inconsistent during childhood.  Individuals with anxious attachment develop hypersensitivity to interpersonal rejection and have anxiety in social environments.  They may develop a needy approach to relationships constantly seeking reassurance of the strength of social supports.
      • Avoidant attachment: an insecure attachment style that may have been characterized by early social adverse environments.  Individuals with insecure attachment style built a wall around their life denying a need or interest in human interactions.

      Emerging research in social neuroscience is providing a better understanding of brain mechanisms related to human attachment.  Vrticka and Vuilleumier of the University of Geneva in Switzerland recently published an excellent review of the neuroscience of human attachment in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

      The authors of this review begin by noting research showing attachment has profound effects in the domains of emotion processing, selective attention and memory.  Insecure attachment individuals are hypersensitive to changes in the expression of emotions in others.   Anxious attachments individuals have enhanced attention to threatening cues.  Avoidant attachment individuals inhibit the memory processing of distressful information.

      The authors note social approach behavior appears regulated in specific brain regions including the ventral tegmental area, pituitary, striatum and ventral medial orbitofrontal cortex.  Social aversion appears to be regulated through the amygdala, hypothalamus, insula, anterior cingulate and anterior temporal poles.

      Social behavior appears to regulated through both affective evaluation (emotional mentalization) and cognitive control systems (cognitive mentalizations).  These systems interact with hormonal and neurotransmitter domains in influencing social interactions.

      The neuroscience of human attachment includes emerging research showing the importance of mental state representation of others (theory of mind).  Mothers with high sensitivity to the cries of their own infants during the post partum period show increased gray matter and fMRI BOLD responses in the prefrontal cortex, superior temporal sulcus and fusiform gyrus.  These regions have been identified as key components engaged in being aware of the emotional states of others.

      The authors conclude that the neuroscience of human attachment is beginning to outline key common and distinct elements in avoidant and anxious attachment styles.  Attachment styles appear to be influenced by both environmental history as well as neurobiological factors, some of which may have strong genetic contributions.

      Future neuroscience of research will need to move experiments into the "real world" and not be limited to task in brain scanners.  Additionally, future research needs to target early intervention studies in children with attachment problems to find the most effective methods to improve social outcomes.

      Readers with more interest in this review are directed to the DOI link below where the free full text manuscript can be found.

      Photo of great white egret from the author's files.

      Vrtička, P., & Vuilleumier, P. (2012). Neuroscience of human social interactions and adult attachment style Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 6 DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2012.00212
      Source: Brain Posts [Neuroscience Medicine]
      Posted by
      Robert Karl Stonjek
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