Role of endocrine system in passion

I’m putting this in GQ because I’m hoping someone will know of some interesting research that might have a bearing.

I am wondering to what extent is human passion attributable to the endocrine system only? (I don’t mean just sexual passion. I mean also love of art, various sentiments, political convictions, love of music, etc.)

I understand that without an endocrine system, you are dead… but if one’s hormones are compromised in some way, does it affect one’s capacity for such feelings? Conversely, what about if one’s intellect is compromised?

I’m asking because I have an older friend who says he used to like certain kinds of music back when he had raging hormones; but now, not so much.


I think this is one of those cases where the standard scientists’ disclaimer: “Correlation is not causation” applies - at least where hormones are concerned. I think you could find considerable evidence that people’s tastes do change as they get older, whether it’s the transition from adolescence to adulthood, or from one adult stage of life to another. Our experiences sometimes change our attitudes; this much is obvious. But in general, those changes result from life experiences, not from biological changes. A common example is how so very many people’s political preferences change over their lifetimes (my father was a fairly extreme example of this).

Where music is concerned, I go through periods when I enjoy one type of music more than another, but I’ve never reached a point where I found a musical genre I’d once loved no longer enjoyable. If it’s something I’ve loved, sooner or later I’ll enjoy - even prefer - it again; it’s happened repeatedly. Yes, I’m a musician, but I don’t think that makes a difference.

I have read some reports of studies that claim that alterations in a person’s brain affect their preferences in a variety of different fields. ISTR there is a book about personality changes resulting from injuries or other alterations in brain function, but I can’t recall the name of it right now.

It is possible that your friend has had one or more mini-strokes, and that those are responsible, if you insist on some kind of alteration in his body being responsible for the change in his musical tastes. Mini-strokes can be perfectly “silent” - IOW, undetectable, in the absence of “gross” changes in behavior, or physical or mental capacity.

Other than that, I dunno. Of course, IANA doctor, nor am I member of any of the other professions who have made particular study of the mind/brain, just a science junkie with an academic background in biology and anthropology.

I would really like to see a more informed opinion than mine on this issue. I am dead certain there is information out there that I don’t have, that doctors, or psychologists, or some other related discipline, may have at their fingertips.

I mean - I do think I got it right, but the brain/mind/etc. is absolutely the most complex thing in science, and not nearly as well understood as anyone would like. There are whole journals on the subject that I’ve not even heard of, and I’m aware of several.

To explain what information sources I draw on, in addition to personal experience, I read Scientific American, Discover and Popular Science faithfully, cover to cover. I read SciAm Mind for more than a year after it came out, but I finally decided I was trying to keep up with too many periodicals, and fewer than half of the articles in most issues of that magazine were things I found all that interesting. I also get two weekly newsmagazines (one of which has a science/technology section in every issue - a really good one - in addition to several other monthly magazines. I try to read all the magazines ASAP after they arrive, except I may let Analog wait at times (mostly fiction). I also have [del]stacks[/del] boxes of both fiction and non-fiction books waiting to be read, and yet I can’t resist buying more, because there’s just too much I still want to learn. If I gave up the computer, I might be able to catch up on my reading - in a year or two. :rolleyes: But the odds of my giving up my computer are nearly as high as the odds of my giving up books - just ain’t gonna happen.

Oh, yeah: brujaja, I think your title may be a bit misleading? Perhaps something more along the lines of “Does the sex drive affect our attitudes toward other things?” might draw more people better qualified to answer your question. Just a suggestion; it’s your thread, and you can call it whatever you wish, but I know you want answers, and would probably like someone with greater knowledge/expertise to respond. A mod can change it, if you ask. :slight_smile:

tygerbright: (and that’s my favorite Blake poem, ever!)
First, forgive my just disappearing on you. I was having a personal existential crisis, during which I was convinced that no one loved me, and I should never go online again. I got over it.

Now, then – what specifically happened is that I have a housecleaning client & friend who is a remarkable man in his 70’s. He tells me that he had a motorcycle and went to all kinds of concerts in the 1960’s. He said that he always liked intense music.

Meanwhile, I recently re-discovered a band I used to like a lot (–just like you said – I do that too) called Nine Inch Nails. Mainly because they have released an album for free this year which I downloaded for the hell of it; the album knocked me out, much to my surprise. It’s got some real strong tunes on it. (and no whining.) Also, he’s got an amazing set of guys behind him.

So, I was talking to my friend about intensity in music, and passion, and he said that thing about hormones.

Honestly, I think what’s really scaring me is the irrational fear that someday my tastes (and, in my mind, my personality along with it) will go all bland. I used to think about that a lot – like, when us punks are in the old folks’ home, what will we be like? Will we be playing pranks on the nurses and drinking beer, trying to smoke our Geritol, sitting in the corner muttering “gabba gabba hey”? --Or, will we mysteriously metamorphose into “easy listening”, Lawrence Welk-watching, no-fun-having oldsters?

Yeesh, I’m probably offending countless beloved Dopers with the paragraph above. I would never say it if it weren’t actually going through my head. Is it just too far a leap from Procol Harem to Nine Inch Nails? Does testosterone influence things like headbanging? Should I invest in those K-Tel albums now?

It’s one of my favorite poems, partly because it’s beautiful, partly because I think that tigers are the single most beautiful animal in the world. As for the delay, de nada. I have difficult times too. Not, I think as bad as yours, but I do understand.

Actually, I think that’s pretty normal for people who are intellectually curious. We get bored and move on, but eventually we come back to things. I’m that way about food, as well. And other things. :slight_smile:

Anybody thin-skinned enough to get upset about Welk and “easy listening” has a problem, one neither of us can help. We’re all entitled to our own tastes in music, art, and other things, so long as we’re not interfering with other people’s enjoyment of their preferences. Welk was still doing live shows when I was a young adult, but I didn’t care for it all that much then, and it hasn’t gotten more appealing to me over the years.

Save your money. I can’t imagine my ever suddenly loving some kind of music that has been around, but never appealed to me before. I’m not sure whether I’ll ever get back to the pop music that I enjoyed as a teenager (original rock; Elvis era), but it doesn’t irritate me, either. :stuck_out_tongue: Who knows, maybe, when I’m 80, I’ll want to listen to Elvis, the Supremes, the Temptations, etc., again - but I doubt it, seriously. Very seriously. I’ve moved on from there. There are some things we do outgrow. I think that’s one of them, for me.

That’s still very much an open question. We really don’t know much about how the brain works yet. A book I used for an anthropology report some years back is detailed in this NY Times article. The essays range from fairly easy to read pieces meant for lay audiences, to jargon-heavy anthro write ups. Well worth checking out from the library.

I’m not sure I understand your question, but the endocrine system definitely plays a big role in emotions like fear, anger, and sexual desire.

I’m not an endocrinologist but I do have an endocrine disorder, and I’ve experienced abnormally low levels of several different hormones and could tell that it effected the way I felt. When I had low epinephrine (adrenaline) levels, I was capable of getting mad about things but it was in an oddly cold-blooded way – I didn’t get the flushed, heart-pounding feeling normally associated with being very angry. I also went through more than a year with close to zero sex drive due to low hormone levels.

That said, I never noticed any correlation between my hormone levels and my interest in art or politics.

This should be even more reassuring to the OP. And it’s certainly consistent with what I thought about the matter, when I was trying to answer. I just think that the former biker has had some other events, either in his life or (more probably) in his brain (such as mini-strokes) that have affected his taste in music. As for sexual appetite, some people’s sex drive disappears with age, and for most, it wanes, at least. But it doesn’t happen to everybody.

I recall hearing an absolutely reliable report of a man in his 80s who, a former prostitute told me, actually had no difficulty in getting an erection and sustaining it to climax, and was a regular customer. And then there are the stories that appear every so often about couples in their 80s and 90s who’ve been married for longer than most Dopers have been alive (or their parents), who still have sex, not as often, but they do have it.

The sex drive runs strong in my family. My father complained to me, in his 60s, about my stepmother (34 years younger) who wasn’t happy that he wanted sex more often than three times a week.

For anybody young - or middle-aged - who is worrying about that stuff, your best guide is family history, particularly the medical part. And older men today don’t have to worry about having the desire, but with problems in performance: It’s not as though medical science hasn’t come up with plenty of help, guys. :wink: