Al Fin, You Sexy Thing!

08 November 2012

First Impressions and the Dorsomedial Prefrontal Cortex

First impressions often determine whether a relationship becomes a relationship, something less, or nothing at all. The brain makes snap judgments at every moment, and some of them will have effects that last for the rest of your life. How does this happen?

Speed Dating and the fMRI Machine:
To find out what goes on in the brain when people view others of the opposite sex as potential mates, or in this case dates, the researchers enlisted the help of 73 male and 78 female volunteers from Trinity College – all were asked to participate in a speed dating exercise. Prior to the speed dating, 39 of the volunteers agreed to allow their brains to be scanned via fMRI machines as they were looking at pictures of people of the opposite sex and rating them on a scale of 1 to 4 regarding their desire to possibly date them. They were also asked to rate those they viewed on how attractive they found them and how likeable they thought they were.

The speed dating exercise was held in the traditional way, i.e. a group of male and female participants were paired up for five minutes at a time with all of the other opposite gender participants to gauge their potential as a real date. Included among the speed daters were the people that appeared in the pictures. Afterwards, both parties filled out forms where they could write down the names of those they were open to dating after the event.

The researchers found that people that were rated highly during the fMRI exam were chosen 62 percent of the time by those that had rated them, after the speed dating exercise. They also found that different parts of the prefrontal cortex appeared to be involved in coming to those decisions. Specifically, they noted that one part, the paracingulate cortex lit up when a volunteer was asked to judge attractiveness, indicating the region was highly involved in drawing conclusions about how attractive they found another person. But, they also found that the rostromedial prefrontal cortex lit up for some people when looking at someone that others didn't seem to find all that attractive, indicating that the individual found that they person they were looking at, was simply attractive to them, which the researchers suggest, is a measure of likeability. _MXP

Abstract of study from The Journal of Neuroscience

We are ever at the mercy of our brains, and its inherent chaotic swings and tides. But we are just barely learning how our brains determine the nature and quality of our existences.

It may be time for us to look at our lives a bit more intentionally, so that we will not one day look back and discover that we have not lived at all, but had only reacted instinctively or had been led unawares. (Apologies to Thoreau's Walden)

The brain: the single most important sex organ. High time we learned to use it.

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