Sealed With a Kiss

28Jan09

Based on my recent post regarding brain activation and love, my brother wanted to know what the deal with kissing is.  He’s a guy, afterall, and us women see the whole kissing thing a bit differently.  I thought it was a good question, though.  How did we develop the kissing behavior?  What purpose does it serve? So I did some research…  I gathered the following information from the Scientific American website from an article entitled: “Affairs of the Lips: Why We Kiss”.

In the 1960’s British zoologist Desmond Morris postulated that the behavior stems from the way that primate mothers feed their young: they feed from mouth to mouth with their lips pursed.  He hypothesized that it later became a way for primates to comfort their young when food was not plentiful and that, eventually, our ancient ancestors adopted this practice and adapted it until it resembled the more modern and passionate way to show affection.

A seemingly simple kiss is actually rather complex.  The lips have the thinnest layer of skin on the body and amongst the most densely innervated with sensory neurons.  Five of the 12 cranial nerves that affect brain function are activated when we kiss. The lips then send messages to the brain regarding taste, touch, smell, temperature, and movement involving the tongue, lips, cheeks, and nose which go specifically to the somatosensory cortex of the brain.  Considering the number of nerve endings the lips contain, they are largely represented in that region.  It’s no wonder then that a kiss can have such a significant impact on one’s emotions. Furthermore, it was determined that kissing, amongst other forms of intimacy, reduce cortisol levels, hormones which are associated with stress. Physiologically speaking, kisses also raise blood pressure and pulse, dilate pupils, deepen breathing, and lower inhibitions.

On an emotional level, women use kissing as a means to gauge a relationship (or the potential thereof).  Initially the kiss can determine compatibility between couples and once a relationship has been established, it can be used to measure the status of the relationship on a subconscious level (how much enthusiasm or excitement is aroused).  Men, however, primarily use kissing as a tool to advance to the next level sexually.  For either genders, however, kissing can make or break a relationship.  58 percent of men and 66 percent of women surveyed reported losing interest in a potential partner strictly due to an incompatible kiss.  I guess first impressions really do last!

You can view the original article in its entirety here:

http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=affairs-of-the-lips-why-we-kiss

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