Woodart wrote:Gertie wrote:
You might enjoy Churchland's take on this, here's a brief summary in a talk she gave -
Wow – what a powerful woman and thinker!
Is she saying that oxytocin is produced as a function of wanting to eat more food in order to keep warm and survive? Why is oxytocin involved in the initiation of maternal behavior and morality? Is the answer that oxytocin precipitates a pleasure response and we want to increase pleasure? Is pleasure the driver for oxytocin production via eating food – having sex – bonding pleasure?
Yeah, fascinating stuff! She has longer lectures on youtube and a book called Braintrust if you want to delve deeper.
As I understand it, the story goes that being warm blooded gives a critter an evolutionary edge, to hunt and forage at night when it's colder, and expand into less hospital territory.
But keeping your blood warm uses up tons of calories, so you have to eat a lot more. Like 10 times more. So that in itself then becomes an evolutionary pressure. One solution to this was to become a lot smarter, literally grow the brain, but also structure that growth to have flexibility to enable learning, so you can adapt to the environment you're born into. This means brains which are able to an extent to physically wire up as a result of experience.
So you end up with off-spring who are potentially very smart and adaptable, but their 'brain wiring' is basic at birth, so they're pretty helpless.
Evolution responds by adapting our hormonal 'reward system' and other systems to extend from being tuned to our self-care, to being tuned to care for off-spring. And oxytocin seems to be a key early part of this. So for example if a mother rat loses track of a baby, her stress hormones will rise and she'll go look for it, when she finds it her stress hormones fall and the oxytocin levels rise making her 'feel good'.
Of course the whole story is hugely complicated, but now we're beginning to understand the beginnings of how we became the way we are. Pretty awesome stuff in my opinion! And I think Churchland does an excellent job of pulling together the research from various fields to give us an accessible and fascinating idea of how the big picture fits together.