MANILA, FEBRUARY 13, 2008 (STAR) DE RERUM NATURA By Maria Isabel Garcia - (First of two shots) In days leading to Feb. 14, shops and restaurants will devise supremely creative ways to ceremoniously escort the unabashed flow of that hormone that makes you feel so good when you are in love or when you think you are in love — dopamine. Couples, in various chromosomal configurations, will join in a melee of dopamine rush, in acts that in many cases, defy clear thinking, gazing at each other that would shame a slew of ophthalmological tests and bathing in feelings that will instantly carve the center of their respective universes (or in some cases, their eventual blackholes) in the person of the beloved.

Valentine’s Day is a day of temporary insanity sanctioned by humanity’s insistence that our species have taken evolution on another road when we invented “romance.” We have woven literature, music, poetry, cuisines, and even architecture (look at the Taj Mahal) to express those emotions that speak of that kind of romance. No other creature has spent so much energy on expressing their emotions. Has anyone ever done the accounting on how much of the energy we spend on romance is responsible for Climate Change? If so, would those responsible argue that it was energy worth spending? How much carbon was let loose to make or keep your beloved contented and happy for many a Valentine’s Day and the years in between?

Yeah, yeah, I am popping all your red balloons. But in a country whose population numbers speak of the fact that they cannot get a grip on their emotions that they cannot decouple it from reproduction, I have become very critical of this hormone called dopamine. And this week, I was given a bit more reason to think that a license should be required of anyone housing more dopamine in their brains beyond a certain level. In the recent issue of the journal Psychopharmacology, it was reported that the hormone responsible for our craving for violence is the same one responsible for our craving for sex. Now, why do I suspect that Hollywood has known this all along, ahead of the neuroscientists? Pictures of mice’s brain (which scientists have come to depend on to cue them on neural pathways in humans) engaged in violence and sex had shown the same process of a feeling of “reward” when engaged in both acts. If you feel a certain kind of “reward” from doing a certain act, then you could make a habit of it or at worse, be addicted to it. Emotions are really sticky affairs.

But what if some kind of anti-cupid was let loose around Valentine’s Day neutralizing what seems to be so potently present on that appointed day? Yeah, I wish I did spend my days wandering through shelves of mad scientists’ labs looking for molecular solutions to the woes of the human spirit but in a feat that would make you realize that science journals sometimes do carry interesting stuff cloaked in impenetrable jargon, I found a gas that erases emotional memory in the Feb. 5, 2008 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (www.pnas.org).

The study, in a neutral tone so characteristic of journal articles, stated that the “study reports the discovery of an agent and method for blocking human emotional memory. An anesthetic gas blocked the mnemonic boost usually associated with emotional arousal, an effect not attributable to the drug’s influence on emotional reactions.”

Hello, people, a gas that blocks emotional memory! Whoa, the Valentine vaccine I was contemplating! It is the gas that could desiccate the personality of Marimar or any other telenovela character like an abandoned coconut husk in a summer-long drought. What would an entire archipelago do without the televised exaggeration of a range of emotions — love, jealousy, anger, fear and hate — on a round the clock beat? Hmm, maybe have more time for thinking clearly and doing something about our own lives and actually living?

(To be continued tomorrow.)

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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