The Science of Kissing

There’s No Better Drug Than A Good Kiss, UT Researcher Finds. So did you get a New Year’s kiss? Here’s hoping so — researchers say it should have provided you a natural high. Better for you than drugs, of course, but with a similar effect on your brain. Science writer and UT research associate Sheril Kirshenbaum, author of The Science of Kissing, explains that while you think you’re just floating along, your senses are actually transmitting countless signals to your brain that tell the rest of your body how to chemically respond. “A good kiss can work like a drug, influencing the hormones and neurotransmitters coursing through our bodies,” Kirshenbaum wrote recently in the Washington Post. Some aspects of your physical response can be consciously felt; others can’t. During a passionate kiss, the pulse quickens, blood vessels dilate, breathing deepens, cheeks flush, pupils dilate, and the brain receives more oxygen. A good kiss triggers oxytocin, the “love hormone,” promoting social bonding and a special connection between two people. But a bad kiss can stimulate cortisol, the “stress hormone,”

making you want to stop. And it’s not a matter of technique — Kirshenbaum says the smell, taste, and pheromones involved in kissing help you suss out whether your partner is a good genetic match for you. (She’s got lots more scientific detail if you’re interested.) As the kissing expert says, “It’s not magic — it’s chemistry and neuroscience.” Sheril Kirshenbaum is a science writer and research associate at the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy at the University of Texas at Austin. In 2005, the University of Texas at Austin chartered the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy (CIEEP), to join the scientific and engineering capabilities of the University’s Jackson School of Geosciences and the College of Engineering with the LBJ School of Public Affairs. The University’s first center dedicated to energy and environmental policy, CIEEP will seek to inform the policy-making process with the best scientific and engineering expertise. Under Director Charles G. Groat, former director of the U.S. Geological Survey, CIEEP has hired three new faculty members and is initiating its first research projects. News from: The University of Texas

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