The neural mechanisms of mate choice: a hypothesis.

: Scientists have described many physical and behavioral traits in avian and mammalian species that evolved to attract mates. But the brain mechanisms by which conspecifics become attracted to these traits is unknown. This paper maintains that two aspects of mate choice evolved in tandem: 1) traits that evolved in the "display producer" to attract mates and, 2) corresponding neural mechanisms in the "display chooser" that enable them to become attracted to these display traits. Then it discusses our (in-progress) fMRI brain scanning project on human romantic attraction, what we believe is a developed form of "courtship attraction" common to avian and mammalian species as well as the primary neural mechanism underlying avian and mammalian mate choice. The paper hypothesizes that courtship attraction is associated with elevated levels of central dopamine and norepinephrine and decreased levels of central serotonin in reward pathways of the brain. It also proposes that courtship attraction is part of a triune brain system for mating, reproduction and parenting. 1)The sex drive evolved to motivate birds and mammals to court any conspecifics. 2) The attraction system evolved to enable individuals to discriminate among potential mating partners and focus courtship activities on particular individuals, thereby conserving mating time and energy. 3) The neural circuitry for attachment evolved to enable individuals to complete species-specific parental duties.

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