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Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Current Hardcover
ISBN-10: 1591845130
ISBN-13: 978-1591845133
 
"Excellent reading for students of social neuroscience, human sexuality and hormones and behavior" — James Pfaus, Professor of Psychology, Concordia University
 

Some Selected Passages from the Book:

Excerpt 1   |   Excerpt 2   |   Excerpt 3

Many scientists in the post-World War II decades hoped to perform electrophysiology experiments on people, but it's tough to recruit volunteers willing to have metal electrodes shoved into their brains, and, even if they could have done so, academic administrators were understandably squeamish about the idea. This state of affairs frustrated psychiatrist Robert Galbraith Heath. Despite holding a prestigious position at Columbia University in New York, where he studied schizophrenia, Heath chafed under the university's ethical restrictions. He could experiment on rodents, and sometimes monkeys, but he wanted access to human beings.

Tulane University took a different view from that of Columbia. The school had big aspirations of becoming a major intellectual hub in the South, but it had trouble attracting top-flight talent. When the university's ambitious pooh-bahs decided they wanted to start a psychiatry department, they targeted Heath to be the man in charge. Compared with Columbia, Tulane was a backwater. But when the school looked around New Orleans and the state, it realized that the city's large Charity Hospital, which served the poor, and the state of Louisiana's mental hospitals represented a deep pool of possible human experimental subjects. Tulane offered Heath access to this vast amount of what he called "clinical material," and he joined the faculty in 1949.

The next year he began placing electrodes-sometimes more than a dozen at a time-into the brains of people. He often noticed that shooting electricity into certain brain regions produced pleasurable feelings, much like what Olds and Milner would later find in rats. Unlike rats, though, people can talk. When they described the nature of the pleasure they felt, they sometimes told Heath it was most definitely erotic.

In 1972, Heath conducted an especially notorious experiment (in a career of notorious work), during which he tried to convert "B-19," a twenty-four-year-old gay man, into a heterosexual by implanting eight electrodes into his septal region. Heath combined the sensory reward of the zaps with a pornographic movie, and the attentions of a twenty-one-year-old prostitute, so that B-19 would associate pleasure in his brain with heterosexuality. Eleven months after the "therapy," Heath declared the experiment a triumph and suggested using brain stimulation as a way to reinforce desired behavior and "extinguish" undesired behavior (thus providing antipsychiatry fodder to Scientologists and mind-control conspiracy theorists everywhere).

In fact, B-19's "conversion" should be viewed with great skepticism. Heath, who was not in the room during the tryst between the prostitute and B-19, relied on her version of what happened. She claimed a great success, with orgasms all around, despite the fact that B-19 had never before had sex with a woman, that the wires sticking out of his head and connecting him to a machine made the gymnastics of sex a little awkward, and that prostitutes rarely climax with their clients. Even so, B-19's posttherapy story of conducting a brief sexual relationship with a married woman (not interviewed by Heath) who never allowed B-19 to ejaculate in her vagina, and his assertion that he'd had gay sex "only" twice since his treatment, were enough for Heath to declare victory over homosexuality.

Excerpted from The Chemistry Between Us by Larry Young and Brian Alexander by arrangement with Current Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc., Copyright © 2012 by Larry Young and Brian Alexander.

From the moment Maria arrived in Pennsylvania, she was afraid of just about everything. A red aircraft-warning light atop a nearby radio tower terrified her into sleeplessness. Mooing cows elicited frightened squeals. After her hair finally grew out, and it was time for a trip to a stylist for a cut, Maria resisted getting in the chair. Not unlike many other children, she expressed fear during her first barber visit. But, unlike most children, she continued to be afraid, shaking so badly that the stylist finally suggested using scissors to give her a quiet trim. That strategy worked, until another stylist switched on a pair of electric clippers. Maria leaped from the chair, screaming.

At first, Maria seems comfortable and at ease when she and Brian take a short drive. But then, on the return trip, as Brian drives closer to the Marshalls' house, he says, "Let's go a little farther down the road, OK?"

"There's our driveway!" Maria says urgently.

"I know, but let's look at some of the farms."

"You're passing our driveway!"

Half a mile later, Maria says, "I think we better turn around." So Brian pulls into a neighbor's driveway. "I don't think they'll like this," Maria says. As Brian situates the car to head back out into the lane, she says, "I think we should go now."

Among other things, Maria has been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder. The week before our visit, she packed twenty-two pairs of underwear for a four-day camping trip. "She said she didn't know why," Ginny recalls, "but she worried all week about it." She still has a menu of fears. Electrical cords disturb her. Anything medically related, like hospital beds and stethoscopes, can cause a panic.

Maria has intellectual difficulties, but she isn't mentally disabled in the ways we'd assume. She's how she is because of how she was treated for twenty-seven months....

Joy King finds the face-to-face part a troublesome business. King is a former vice president of special projects at Wicked Pictures, one of the world's largest producers of adult entertainment, and now works as a consultant. She started her career in the 1980s, and since then she has become known as something of a savant about what consumers of mainstream porn will buy. It was King who transformed an unknown stripper and wannabe actor named Jenna Marie Massoli into the mainstream-media juggernaut Jenna Jameson.

Wicked Pictures mostly produces so-called couples films. Since this genre eschews fringe and bizarre scenes in favor of tamer, mostly heterosexual, fantasy, King tries to create imagery that will appeal to women as well as to men. She often travels to fan shows, conventions, and retail-store events. She maintains an online social-networking presence so she can talk to consumers, especially women, and ask them what they'd like to see.

King admits it's tough to generalize, but one thing most women agree on is that, while bodies and body parts are welcome, faces are vital. "I met recently with a woman director who is going to be shooting a new line for us, and one of the things we discussed about the marketplace is the importance of eye contact, and shooting eye contact," she tells us. "We need these two people to look deeply into each other's eyes. Oddly enough, she said one of the most difficult things to get her performers to do is look into each other's eyes ."

King once tried an experiment of her own by concertedly making eye contact with people she encountered in lines, on the street, in cafés, and through her work. She found that her gaze made most people uncomfortable. "It makes them turn away," she says. Yet when she's been sexually involved with another person, she finds herself doing a lot of eye gazing. Her man will gaze into her eyes, too. It seems not only comfortable but essential. She realized that people don't generally stare into others' eyes-doing so in the animal world is often viewed as a threat-"unless they are engaged in some sort of relationship, and especially people who are in a relationship and having sex."

As unlikely as it may seem, both Joy King's porn problem and Dr. Long's century-old sex advice directly relate to the reasons why Maria has difficulty empathizing with others, why mothers look at their babies, and, ultimately, to the genesis of human romantic love.

Excerpted from The Chemistry Between Us by Larry Young and Brian Alexander by arrangement with Current Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc., Copyright © 2012 by Larry Young and Brian Alexander.

Information like this ought to make us pause and attempt a panoramic view of our culture. We've been busy building a pretty anxious one. In doing so, we may be changing the collective social brain.

For example, the economy may not appear to have much to do with love, desire, and bonding. But consider something Strathearn often does. We know he thinks motherhood might be getting off to a bad start in the United States and other developed nations-but not just because of what goes on in our hospitals. "The mother brings the baby home from the hospital, and soon goes back to work and puts the child in day care." If you look at our world through the lens of bonding, Strathearn says, that may not be such a good idea. "You look at our society and the patterns we've created. We think we are making our lives better, but are we? Or are we creating perhaps more subtle-or not so subtle-problems?"

Mother-infant bonding is the keystone of all human bonding. But in our current economic world, many parents, single or not, have little choice but to return to work as soon as possible after giving birth. Stay-at-home parenting has become a luxury, and it's not just because parents want a ski boat or two weeks at Claridge's in London. It's because we're being crushed by health-insurance premiums, by caring for our parents, by college tuition costs, by fears of unemployment, by a changing workscape in which if you snooze, you lose.

Arguments over the economy and family life have been going on since the 1970s, but research into such questions has traditionally fallen into the realm of social science, making it vulnerable to accusations that its findings are "squishy." Now, though, social neuroscience is producing hard data that explain actual mechanisms behind how the emotional connections between parent and infant affect the developing brain, then go on to influence the next generation. In rats, we know how this happens-right down to the molecule.

Few people recognize just how important this research could be. Policy makers, politicians, and lobbyists are stuck in a past time, tossing out "personal responsibility" and then advocating for severe budget cuts, even for effective programs that intervene in the cycle of negative parenting. Such a cut might save a penny now, only to rack up a wave of costs later. It's fine to argue that a teen mother only has herself to blame for bearing a child she's not equipped to raise, that she should buck up and show responsibility. But such tropes assume perfect, rational control. As we've seen, there's no such thing. Like it or not, some will fail, and then society will bear the expense of future difficulties encountered, or caused by, a child raised in an emotionally or physically deprived home.

It's possible that the very culture of communication we've spent the past fifty years creating and congratulating ourselves about could be contributing to an alienated society because it bypasses the neural circuits meant to foster communal love. Too little direct human-to-human stimulation of these circuits can stunt their development. E-mail, texting, Twitter, Facebook-digital worship in general-have led to less face-to-face contact, all the while promoting the impression that technology can mimic the physical presence of human beings in time and space. We buy groceries in self-serve aisles, bank online or via ATMs, shop on our computers. We've created what Postman called a "Technopoly."

Excerpted from The Chemistry Between Us by Larry Young and Brian Alexander by arrangement with Current Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc., Copyright © 2012 by Larry Young and Brian Alexander.